How to solve problems applying a Design Thinking, UX, HCD or any Creative Process from scratch V2

In 2016, I set out to take on and rethink the Design Process. It was my attempt at making sense of it but what happened went far beyond that notion.

My Revamped Double Diamond Design Process Framework (latest version, Jan 2018)

The article covering my approach (link below) triggered an unexpected amount of attention and tons of reactions. I got pretty much everything from trolling and criticism – «you made simple things complicated» – to job offers and conference invites.

Most importantly I received a lot of valuable feedback. Taking it in, applying the process to various projects and re-thinking the framework encouraged me to continuously tweak and modify it.

I have also been adapting it for the company I work at – Hinderling Volkart. So, it is about time I shared my learnings and an update of the Revamped Double Diamond Design Process Framework. BTW: Coming up with a shorter and catchier name is an open ticket on my inexistent issue tracker 😉. Suggestions welcomed.

Compared to the original approach, the fundamentals of the framework remain the same. It should provide guidance, and help anyone to tackle challenges in a structured way. At best, it provides scaffolds one can build upon.

There are numerous refinements, updates and some overarching conceptual clarifications as you’ll see further below.

Three crucial aspects you should remember when using this framework:

  1. It is not THE Framework. It is A framework. Apply whatever suits you, adapt it and use it in a way that works for you.
  2. Be prepared to iterate or even restart at any point in the process. Embrace your learnings because the process is not finite.
  3. As stated in my original post and in reality, it is a never ending process, as creativity is the habit of continually doing things in new ways to make a positive difference to our life (Hyper Island, 2016).
…creativity is the habit of continually doing things in new ways to make a positive difference to our life (Hyper Island, 2016).

Day after day. We see yesterday’s achievements destroyed today. Thus, we need to fix them tomorrow. So, let’s get started.

The starting point – Trying to get from A to B

No matter what you do in life or at work, you are often confronted with questions, challenges and problems.

«You don’t know something» or only have a vague idea of how «something could be» (Point A).

You want to get to a point when you find answers and solutions to this. «You do know something» and how something «should be» (Point B).

Makes sense, right?

The four phases to get from A to B

Based on the British Design Council’s Double Diamond your quest leads you through a wonderland of four phases.

You will discover, define, develop and eventually deliver. You know that approach, right?

  • If your answer is NO: WTF! Read the following short summary.
  • If your answer is YES: Enjoy the scroll down to the next chapter.

Discover — Research Phase

Understand the initial situation or challenge. Define what additional knowledge you need. Figure out how to obtain it. Then go the f*ck out, talk to people and do your homework and research.

Define — Synthesis Phase

Understand and make sense of your research to define whether you are solving the right problem and phrase your vision accordingly.

Develop — Ideation Phase

Get into the solution mode by evaluating ways and means to solve the core issues you have deduced from your research synthesis.

Deliver — Implementation Phase

Design, craft, develop or do whatever it takes to turn your ideas and potential solutions into something tangible. Build, test and fail to learn and to do it again.

Diversion vs Conversion

Each phase of this process either makes you diverge or converge.

Diverging phases (Discover & Develop)

Diverging phases requires you to open up and take anything possible into account or develop as many ideas and potential solutions as possible.

Converging phases (Define & Deliver)

Converging phases require you to narrow down, get your ideas and approaches straight to make sense and decisions.

From A to B, step by step

Each of the four phases is split up into individual activities and steps. In all these steps different tools, techniques and methods may be applied.

This post is not going into every step’s detail. If you are familiar with the original visualisation you’ll notice that some naming and the order of the different steps have been slightly adjusted in this latest version. Furthermore, a loop has been added to the «Delivery» phase to visually acknowledge the agile and iterative nature of this part of the process.

Here is a quick listing of the different sub-steps in each phase:

Discover — Research Phase

  • Rip the Brief — Analyse the initial situation and conclude how much more details and knowledge you kneed or want.
  • Define your research scope, methods, prepare and plan your research.
  • Conduct your primary (field) and secondary (desk) research.

Output: Unstructured research findings, documentation and findings.

Sample of barely structured research outcome (this is not even half of what we had for a project with 40 interivews, online-surveys, observations and secondary research). Applying structure early helps when laying out and sharing your research findings in your team — (Img @ Hinderling Volkart, blurred on purpose).

Define — Synthesis Phase

  • Lay out all your research findings and build themes and clusters go gain an overview.
  • Find insights – the dormant truth behind the facts or the words between the lines.
  • Deduce opportunity areas and potential fields of action.
  • Form redefined «How might we…»-questions based on the opportunity areas.

Output: A final brief, new or refined «HMW»-research questions or a strategy paper.

The condensed outcome of the previous research (previous img). Structured and categorised in in «opportunity areas» consisting of a title, insights, quotes and first strategic ideas. This gets then turned into a digital or other format in case needed.

Develop — Ideation Phase

  • Ideate — generate as many ideas or potential solutions as possible.
  • Evaluate the first ideas you want to bring into further exploration.
  • Set the ideas, the design vision or your hypotheses to a point when you can make them tangible.

Output: A set of ideas, a strategic thesis, a concept, first design drafts, a vision or first prototypes.

Ideation outcome after collaborative session with the client applying the NABC method (need, approach, benefit, competition and first sketches). The basis for first decisions and directions (Img @ Hinderling Volkart, blurred on purpose).

Deliver — Implementation Phase

  • Prototype, Test & Analyse (make your best ideas tangible, test them and see what you get out).
  • Learn, Iterate & Repeat (bring in the learnings, maybe rethink, redo, retest).
  • Build, Iterate & repeat as often as necessary (the better the results get the more you bring your product to a real-world, usable and stable product).
  • Release your solution and push it out to your users.

Output: Your final product or the solution and answer to your original challenge.

Not really the final outcome but a blurred screenshot of our InVision account where most of our first rough wireframe mockups, higher fidelity design prototyes and moods go on and serve the testing during a project.

Doing the right thing (strategy) vs Doing things right (design)

How does this framework align in an organisational context? A question I have often been asked. When taking a step back, the four phases may be summarised as two main stages. Each stage aiming at a goal and resulting in an outcome, placing it in the corresponding organisational matrix.

Stage 1 — Experience Strategy

The first two phases — Discover & Define — are all about «doing the right thing» (goal) and finding the right question to answer or the right problem to solve. This is when we talk about establishing an «experience strategy» (outcome).

Stage 2 — Experience Design

The following two phases — Develop & Deliver — are all about «doing things right» (goal) and finding the right answer or the right way to solve the problem. That’s when we talk about executing the «experience design» (outcome).

Final thoughts and notes

As said: The Revamped Double Diamond Process Framework is A and not THE framework or process. Find what works best for you and keep the following things in mind:

  • Design with and not for people.
  • The framework is not your destination but it shows you A way to get there.
  • Be prepared to iterated, repeat or start from scratch at any point and once you think your are done it is just starting all over again.
  • Solving real-world problems is not done by starring into your black mirror. It is done in the real world talking and collaborating with real people. Even if your product is web-based, in most circumstances, it will serve real human beings at one point — hopefully at least.
Solving real-world problems is not done by starring into your black mirror.

Free Download

Download the framework as .pdf slides & .jpgs (.zip, 968KB):

Credits & Thanks

My approach is obviously based on the great work of the Design Council’s original Double Diamond, IDEO /’s HCD framework, Stanford’s Design Thinking Process and my MA course at Hyper Island and all involved tutors and peers.

Special thank for support & feedback Davis Levine & Daniel T Santos and everyone contributing.