There is no one-size-fits-all design process.

There isn’t. Not realizing this will lead to every problem looking like a nail that a design hammer can fix. This is where things sometimes go sideways and end up giving well-meaning designers a bad rap.

I’ve been designing long enough to have seen many, many iterations of the ‘design process’ come in and out of vogue. At Frog, we had a 3-D process: Discover, Design, Deliver. IDEO had a triple-I process: Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation. Popular at the moment, is the Design Council’s “Double Diamond” 4-step variation:

Image: www.designcouncil.org.uk

In essence, you start with not knowing much about your task or problem. You move on to knowing enough to develop some educated guesses. From there, you can begin developing a solution which will ultimately get built. Along the way, there are phases of divergent and convergent thinking, there are interactions with users, there’s the validation of assumptions, there’s (a lot of) rework and finally, there’s a resolution. This is, more or less, the design process.

I’ve always tried to treat “design thinking” or “big D design” or whatever the Design Process du jour is as a guideline rather than a strict template.

For me, it’s more about knowing when to use a certain tool, understanding the trade-offs when skipping a step of the process, tailoring methodology to where a company is at, and being able to strike a balance that propels the business forward while delivering a great product experience.

A good friend of mine recently stated, that “… design leaders should spend a little more time finding out about the organizations they hope to lead” before jumping in with Design. So true.

Having said all this, here are some of the skills I am experienced in (by phase):

Discover

  • market research
  • user research
  • competitive analysis
  • value proposition development

Design

  • personas
  • empathy maps
  • user flows
  • design principles
  • information architecture
  • wireframes
  • visual mockups
  • prototyping

Deliver

  • assets (graphics, bitmaps, 9-patch)
  • visual QA
  • functional specifications
  • style guides

Deploy

  • usability studies
  • bug testing
  • A/B testing
  • HTML audits
  • Champagne bottle opening