Double Diamond with Design Lead - Pierce O'Brien

Come along on the journey of demystifying the jargon shrouding the term Double Diamond, and learn why it’s so important.

Pierce is the Associate Design Director at Exo Digital. He is one of our most talented designers and eats, lives and breathes the Double Diamond process on the regular.

We were thrilled to get a few minutes to sit down and talk to our in-house expert to gain some insight into what this approach involves and how it can be useful in any type of business.

What is the Double Diamond Approach?

Double Diamond is a relatively new label that we’ve put on the process of design thinking, which has been used throughout the design industry for years.

Giving it a name and creating a sturdy framework helps to keep the cyclical process moving and provides a constructive feedback loop on what works and what doesn’t.

Double Diamond refers to a project’s stages from conception to realisation. There are four phases that every project will cycle through.

Each phase is represented by either an open ‘V’ to indicate Divergent Thinking or an inverted ‘V’ to indicate Convergent Thinking, hence the ‘Double Diamond’.

Divergent Thinking

This term refers to the process of going very broad in your thinking, keeping an open mind and considering everything and anything. You go comprehensive in understanding the problem, the people involved, their goals, etc.

Convergent Thinking

This term refers to the process of thinking narrowly about what you’ve learned, bringing the focus right into the small things and defining them.

Phase 1: Discover

In this phase, we uncover what the problems are. Without a problem to latch onto, we don’t know what we’re solving.

For example, a person comes to us saying they’d love to build an app. We ask: “What’s the problem that the app is trying to solve?” Without that, we don’t know if it will be valuable to anyone.

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director

We need to know that it’s going to be a valuable thing, that it’s going to help someone and solve an issue.

In this phase, we adopt Divergent Thinking. We keep an open mind, consider everything and try to get a lot of research done.

We ask ourselves questions: Is there any market research around this particular industry? Do we need to understand anything about the customer? Are there any numbers that we can understand?

Do user research. Get in front of the person whose problem you’re trying to solve and chat about what’s going on. What are their typical activities, goals, motivations? How old are they, what do they do for work, how do they interact with their devices?

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director

These questions give us a lot of documentation and research, and from this, we can then diverge again.

Look into competitor research. Are there any other people in this space, and how do they do things? How do they build their app, their website, their service? How do they speak to their customers?

This phase is all about discovering as much as possible and then documenting it to understand it.

Phase 2: Design

Now that we understand what the customers feel and what they do, we can start to narrow it down and focus on key areas. This is where we adopt Convergent Thinking.

A big part of this phase is synthesising the data. For example, we have many customers saying, “this thing really annoys me.”, so we look at how many people are saying this. If many people say the same thing, we’ve highlighted that as a primary problem for our customers, and we can focus on it. We know this is something that needs a solution.

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director
Image credit: Miro

This is the point at which we narrow down our focus and make sure that all of the data is understood to know where we’re going with it.

Typical things that we’ll be doing in this phase are:

  • Synthesising research – so that we can find patterns and commonalities
  • Moving into product statements – “As a user, I am having this sort of problem and we would suggest creating this type of solution to solve it.”
  • Start writing up persona’s – where we generalise data down into templates of who we think our customers are. We can always point back to the persona and reflect on whether we believe the customer will recognise the solution when we go into the solutions phase.

For example, we might say that most of our customers are between the ages of 18 – 30, well-off, usually high school or university-educated, time-poor, experiencing this issue, etc.

It’s an excellent way to anchor us back into who we’re solving the problem for.

Phase 3: Develop

We go back into Divergent Thinking in this phase. We’ve got all of the problems that we need to solve; how will we solve them?

This is where we can chuck anything at the wall, no matter how outrageous. It’s all about generating ideas and getting creative.

We start to experiment with different technologies, ways of thinking, wire-framing and storyboarding.

We move into early wire-frame design work. This is a rough idea of how we’re thinking and comes from the initial storyboarding and design work, and then we can start roughly laying it out. How does this experience work?

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director

We then move into some lower-, mid-, high-fidelity design work and prototyping to give everyone an understanding of how this works.

Phase 4: Deliver

We’ve come up with all these solutions, designs and crazy ways of thinking, so now we come together to figure out how to operate as a cross-functional team.

At the start of the process, the designers and researchers are coming together and putting this research together. Often, marketing gives us more insight into the customer, but we haven’t engaged the development side yet.

At the end of the development phase, where you’ve got a bunch of solutions flying around, it’s an excellent point to start getting the development team involved and very crucial in this delivery phase.

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director

This is where we move into asking how the solution is actually going to work. What do we think has got the most priority out of all of these things that we’re thinking up? What do we think will solve the customers’ problem most effectively and within budget? What’s within our roadmap? How quickly can we get these things done?

It’s vital to start bringing together all the different teams that work on these ideas and start thinking about how we will build, develop and test them.

It’s all about starting to move into building the product. We’re trying to get the build going, get it up live, and then test and iterate on it.

Now that we have the concept that we know we’re trying to focus on, we need to go and test it with real users. So, we go back to our customers with prototypes and early builds, and we ask if it’s solving their problem. If it isn’t, we go back and test and try again.

In summary

The Double Diamond is a very cyclical process. We’re constantly going through the phases at the same time.

This is an excellent way to get feedback and ensure that the iterations you’re working on and spending money on are bringing value to your customers.

The typical things that we’re doing throughout the Double Diamond process are:

  • Usability testing: testing these ideas and solutions with real customers to get feedback
  • Prioritising our tickets and features or solutions: organising what we know to build
  • Building: encountering a lot of cross-functional teams and building the tech that we get so excited about.

It’s a pretty simple process once you understand it. When you get to the end of the process, you release the product and go back to the start.

You go back to the customers that are using the product and ask for their thoughts. So then, you’re back at the start of the Double Diamond.

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director

It’s a very iterative, cyclical approach that we can use for any kind of idea or project. Most people are already doing this, but once we get feedback on what works and what doesn’t, we can converge on those insights, figure out what we’re trying to solve, and go out and test it.

We’re constantly testing our assumptions. It’s about giving businesses the confidence that the design work that we’re doing is proven.

If you would like more information on the Double Diamond approach, or you think that Exo Digital can help your business book an info session today or give us a call on 1300 929 992.

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