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The Double Diamond Design Process: The Cleanest Way to Approach Product Design

Updated: Apr 18

Having solutioned various design related problem statements over the years (in both, a structured and unstructured manner, depending on the amount of time available to get the job done), I've seen that the Double Diamond design process has been one of the most effective ways to approach product design.

Double diamond design process cover photo

The framework focuses on user-centered design, with a structured approach to guide teams through the complexities of problem-solving with clarity and purpose. More importantly, it isn't linear in nature; it's an interconnected loop where each phase influences the other. The dynamic relationship between the four phases ends up creating a holistic approach to solve problems creatively.

Considering the hustle in which we are normally expected to troubleshoot problems and come up with design solutions, my colleagues will come at me with pitchforks saying we've never solved any problem using this model. Honestly though, that would be untrue; while we may never have explicitly drawn the diamond and approached a problem one step at a time this way, we most certainly have come up with solutions in this structure, intuitively or intentionally - and that's the best part about the model if you ask me. The way I see it, the model is more than a process; it's a mindset that leads to successful design outcomes.

The Four Sections of the Double Diamond Design Process

The Double Diamond is a design thinking model with two main phases: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. The model visualizes the process of discovering and defining a problem, ideating and prototyping solutions, and testing and iterating for continuous improvement.

Design thinking framework

1. Discover - Research Phase: The focus is first on research, user empathy, and problem exploration. During this phase, understanding the context, user needs, and potential challenges are important for informed decision-making.

2. Define - Synthesis Phase: Findings from the discovery phase are synthesized, and a clear problem statement is defined. This step ensures a focused approach to ensure the right problems are solved appropriately.

3. Develop - Ideation Phase: The ideation phase involves brainstorming and generating creative solutions. This phase encourages open-mindedness and diverse thinking, fostering a rich array of ideas.

4. Deliver - Implementation Phase: Finally, prototypes are developed based on finalized solutions to translate concepts into tangible output. This iterative process allows for refinement of ideas based on cycles of feedback.

D1 - Discover

How to research

Further expanding with a look-see at how we adopted the same in Volvo, here's a little bit about the first of the 4 D's in particular, Discover.

This phase serves as the initial exploration and understanding of the problem space. It is a crucial stage for research and gathering insights. By embracing a divergent approach, the goal is to cast a wide net to uncover potential opportunities and challenges, with a lot of focus on openness and curiosity. This often involves conducting interviews and surveys, which play a pivotal role in uncovering the nuances of user experiences. In addition to interviews, you may also employ observational studies, which involve exposure to the user's environment. Observing users in their natural context provides a deeper understanding of their daily routines, challenges, and other factors that influence their experiences. Beyond direct interactions with users, secondary research is also crucial in this phase. This involves reviewing existing literature and relevant data to gather a comprehensive understanding of the problem. This background research helps identify gaps in knowledge, emerging patterns, and potential areas for innovation.

When I did my internship at Volvo way back in 2014, we were expected to identify how to reduce the overall tact time of the manufacture of a single truck (fluctuating around the 90-minute mark). And while there were a bunch of ways via which we could make this happen (like fixing the floor map for more efficiency, building actual tools that would make the product faster, or by recommending other raw materials that could make for faster movement), the idea was to first gather as much information from around us as possible, by talking to as many engineers on the floor as we could and by observing the workforce in action. Only after spending almost a third of our total internship period with primary and secondary research did we feel like we were equipped enough to move forward with actual solutioning.

Brainstorming sessions and ideation workshops are integral in this phase, by the way. These activities could also involve cross-functional collaboration, to bring together diverse perspectives and expertise. While this was something we weren't able to explicitly do in Volvo as just interns cut off from the upper management, we did brainstorm among ourselves to get different perspectives and identify an array of solutions for the problem statement at hand.

In summary, the Discover phase sets the foundation for the entire design process. This divergent thinking allows for a broad exploration of possibilities without immediately narrowing down the focus. It is a holistic and immersive stage where you actively seek to understand the problem space and empathize with users before converging into the next phase - Define.

D2 - Define

defining synthesise phase

The adoption of this convergent phase helped us approach building a social media presence for a product at BYJU'S, as part of a ToFu strategy.

Unlike the expansive and exploratory nature of the Discover phase, the Define phase narrows down on the insights gained to formulate a clear problem statement and design brief. This phase acts as the compass that guides the entire design process, setting the course for developing solutions. It's about distilling all that information to find a single problem to solve. In our case, while we explored a bunch of possible ToFu plans for the product in the Discover phase, we locked onto tackling social media first in the Define phase.

Setting clear goals is another key aspect of this phase. Are we aiming for brand awareness, product education, or driving sales? Each goal necessitates a different approach. Based on the goal we want to achieve, we can then formulate a plan — in our case, a content strategy that resonates with our target audience. Furthermore, this compelled us to establish metrics and answer questions around content treatment, keeping in mind our constraints and budgets.

The Define phase acknowledges the need for agility. In our case, it meant putting together a publishing calendar that factored in frequency and consistency based on the team's bandwidth and expertise. Of course, this definition isn't really set in stone, but it acts as a great starting point that evolves with feedback and learning.

In summary, the Define phase acts as the bridge between the divergent exploration of the Discover phase and the focused development of the subsequent phases. It transforms ambiguity into clarity, providing a solid foundation for the team to move forward with confidence. This provides the confidence and direction needed to move into the Develop phase, where those brainstorming sessions and ideation workshops can truly come alive, transforming ideas into engaging video content in our case with the YouTube and Instagram channels.

D3 - Develop

About developing ideation phase

When we worked on the first five panels of the seventh Cat Ninja for the first time two years ago, I didn't think we'd work on it another eight times... and honestly, praise the Lord we did! That's the Develop phase for you!

After the first Diamond, it's time to look at the first D of the second Diamond - Develop. Building upon the foundation laid during the Define phase, the Develop phase marks the transition from problem identification to solution ideation. Here's a bit more on the same and how it helped us when we worked on a new reading format in Epic.

The Develop phase is characterized by a divergent approach, synthesizing the insights gained from the Define phase into tangible prototypes. In the context of our project – we wanted to come up with a new engaging reading format that was a level-up from the existing Read-to-Me feature on the app. During the Define phase, we did enough research to understand why we needed to build something like this. However, the Develop phase required us to elevate our thinking to structure things more meaningfully. This involved exploring a bunch of content forms out there that not only were binge in nature but also successfully brought reading to the forefront.

Cross-functional collaboration plays a pivotal role in the Develop phase. By bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise, we ensured a rich pool of ideas and insights. This collaborative effort is crucial in refining and expanding concepts, pushing beyond individual perspectives to create a comprehensive and well-rounded set of solutions. In our case, brainstorming helped us explore different ways via which we would animate comic book panels without distracting the viewer from the text on screen, and devise an exact strategy for execution at scale.

The Develop phase is where the abstract becomes tangible. Prototypes and models start taking shape, allowing the team to visualize and interact with potential solutions. This iterative process enables us to test and refine ideas, ensuring they align with the project's goals and resonate with the intended audience.

In summary, the Develop phase transforms ideas into actionable plans. It's a stage of refinement, where the design team converges to develop tangible solutions that address the defined problem. As we move forward in the design process, the next phase, Deliver, awaits to bring these concepts to fruition.

D4 - Deliver

Implementation phase

And here's a little bit on the last D of the Double Diamond design process - the Deliver phase. This phase represents the transformative moment when concepts and ideas take tangible form where the team now shifts focus to actualizing the solutions after having navigated through the Discover, Define, and Develop phases. Here's a little bit on the same and how it helped us in the BYJU'S Math Companion product with our live classes.

Plans are expected to move to the output stage in this phase. In the context of our project, this meant implementing the different approaches and strategies we had to conduct classes that are not only educational but also captivating. Various class structures were identified, each aiming to optimize engagement and learning. The challenge was to ensure that the theoretical aspects identified during the Develop phase seamlessly translate into live, interactive sessions.

User testing becomes a cornerstone of this phase. It is the litmus test for the strategies and structures we developed, and to understand what solution we finally want to deliver. How do students respond to different approaches? How should interactions be spaced out for optimal engagement? Can we leverage other mediums to enhance the teaching experience? These were questions answered through direct user feedback, allowing us to refine and adapt our strategies based on real-world interactions.

The Deliver phase acknowledges the need for scalability. In the context of Math Companion classes, the focus was not only on the immediate execution of classes but also on establishing a pipeline for scale. How can the system be set up to accommodate a growing number of users without compromising the quality of the educational experience? What kind of design and educational systems need to be created to enable the same? This forward-thinking approach ensures that the design solution is not only effective in the present but also sustainable for future expansion.

This section of the process is not merely about the end product; it's about the entire experience. It involves orchestrating the designed solution in a way that aligns seamlessly with user expectations. This could mean considering the pacing of the class, the integration of multimedia elements, or the overall user interface of the learning platform. The goal is to deliver an experience that goes beyond functionality and creates lasting impressions. In summary, the Deliver phase is the culmination of the design journey. It is the stage where thoughtful planning meets real-world execution. As we transition from ideation to implementation, the impact of our design on the end-users comes to the forefront, marking the completion of the Double Diamond design process.

To Conclude

The Double Diamond design model is a great way to iteratively alternate between expansive exploration and focused refinement to approach problem statements. Begin by exploring what it could be, then define what it should be. From there, develop and refine till the final product is ready to be delivered.

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