David Lipkin, Reed class of 1991, is one of the co-founders of Method, an experience design firm, which was founded in 1999. Method currently has offices in San Francisco, London, and NYC. I spent two weeks at Method as an extern in the NYC office. While at Reed, David majored in history and also focused on anthropology. Currently, he manages the strategy and business development of the NYC office, though he also maintains an active role in many of the projects.
Despite all of the projects, clients, initiatives, and goals that Method juggles, it doesn’t come off as a stressful place to work. Their fifth floor space is open and well lit; nobody has an office. There’s a basketball hoop mounted on one of the walls, and I quickly learned that late afternoon breaks to play games of dice were commonplace. Everyone was friendly, and interacted with each other as peers. Until I spent time at Method, I didn’t fully appreciate how valuable a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere is to facilitating creativity in the workplace.
With that said, I confess that when I arrived at 9:30 on the first day, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing for two weeks. I felt like I didn’t have any design skills to speak of, and my front-end development skills definitely didn’t seem up to par. But everyone welcomed me and it was fine, I suppose. One of the best parts about my experience at Method was that there was so much going on- and so much that I could do- that I had to let go of the uncomfortable feeling that I was an intruder very quickly. After the morning standup, I was invited to observe one of the project meetings. I stood in the corner of the area watching when the project lead turned to me and said, “Feel free to jump in with any ideas or questions you have.”
Most of Method’s projects involve the digital space in some capacity. They market themselves as a brand, experience, product, and service design firm. The best way I made sense of this description was by reading about their previous work. For example, Method has worked with Nokia for years redesigning the end-to-end user experience of their product. That project included everything from packaging to in-store experience to interface design.
Similar to an individual artist, Method has a portfolio, and develops that portfolio with projects that align with their interests as a design firm and as a business. The delicate balance of clients and projects was not something that had crossed my mind prior to my externship. Whenever Method starts a project, they are tackling something slightly different from anything they’ve done before. The collaborative atmosphere of the workspace seemed essential to the process of developing, refining, and implementing a plan of action.
Part of what I did when I was at Method was help organize the internal structure of the code behind the Method website and the site for one of their projects- a book on experience design. Learning about the variety in Method’s portfolio opened my eyes to the how versatile everyone who works at a place like Method must be.
One of the first things David said to me when we got in touch during the afternoon of my first day at Method was, “Consider today a lost day.” At the time, I chuckled and thought he was kidding. When I left at 6pm that day, I had probably done more than I had during the previous week.
And yet, somehow, David was right. When I think about what I did that first day at Method, and the amount that I learned, it pales in comparison to how much I was exposed to every day after that. I was able to work on multiple projects, participate in meetings, and even help develop a proposal. Even though I was only there for two weeks, when I left Method I felt like I had really experienced what it was like to be a part of an experience design firm. The opportunity to be a participant, and not just an observer, was more helpful and insightful than any kind of shadow position could have been to me.