The 18F Methods are a collection of tools that describe how our teams put human-centered design into practice. We’ve gathered them here and created simplified instructions to help other organizations and federal offices adopt human-centered design into their own projects. These cards are focused on design in the context of digital services, but can be adapted to non-technical design projects as well.

The basics of human-centered design

Human-centered design, also referred to as “user-centered design,” is a methodology that incorporates feedback from the people for whom you are designing throughout the design process. The goal of human-centered design is to end up with a solution that is tailored to meet people’s needs, with little wasted effort and reduced risk. To achieve this goal, design teams at 18F talk with and observe real users to understand their needs, context, and challenges, come up with design concepts that might address these challenges, and then test them with real users. Learn more about the benefits and techniques of human-centered design.

Using the 18F Methods

The 18F Methods are broken up into the four broad design phases your team is likely to go through during a project. While some cards refer to other methods, you may use them independently. You do not need to use all the cards in a section or complete certain tasks before moving on to others. Take whatever cards are most useful to your team and incorporate more tools as you’re ready.

We’ve included additional guidance for using these methods in government research, specifically around the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). We’re only able to include brief guidance on the PRA, and federal workers should check with their agency counsel for additional guidance. You should also read the cards in the fundamentals section for more background on conducting design research as a government employee.

Go behind the scenes

As with all of 18F’s products, the 18F Methods are completely open source. You are free to copy, share, or reuse them as you wish. We also welcome input from the public, whether it’s correcting a typo or suggesting a new method to include. You can see our guidelines for contributing on GitHub.

Release notes


January 24, 2019





October 25, 2018





February 02, 2018





September 18, 2017


June 12, 2017

We redesigned the entire Methods Cards site to bring its visual styling and interaction patterns into alignment with 18F’s website, which follows the US Web Design Standards.

We transitioned the Methods Cards site into Federalist, making the site easier to host and to maintain. As a part of this process, we reconfigured the site backend to simplify its structure and to remove unnecessary files.

We updated the Methods Cards source files to use Markdown, so that the individual cards can be more easily updated, and so that our documentation is consistent with other guides produced by 18F.

We added CSS print styles and new print buttons, in order to make it easier for users to print the entire set of cards, or a single card of their choice, or all the cards of a specific type (such as the full set of “Validate” cards).

We completed a thorough content audit of the website to identify places where the text included too much jargon from the design and tech industries. We then updated the cards to use more plain language, so that they will be easier for a wider variety of users to understand.

We started adding links to examples that demonstrate how 18F has used specific methods in our own work. We will continue adding these examples as they become available.

Special thanks to @jenniferthibault, @line47, @andrewmaier, @colinpmacarthur, @MelissaBraxton, and @awfrancisco for their contributions to this release. :tada: