Double Diamond model

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From the 2000s, Design and Creative thinking approach have become an interesting topic for the managerial field, especially when we talk about innovation. Mostly, the evolution of design is seen as a new and innovative way to manage organizational transformation and projects, thanks to its capability to re-frame problems and see them with a new point of view. Double Diamond is the name of a design process model developed by the British Design Council in 2004 and created to help designers and non-designers to solve complex social, economic and environmental problem. Indeed, it is a project management tool that helps in the scheduling phase to go through the complexity of a project, by providing a path and fundamental steps to pursue. It is a creative and innovative approach, with four principles at its roots[1]: put customers first, visual communication, collaboration and co-creation, iterative work. As the name suggests, Double Diamond model is composed by two different areas, the problem space and the solution space, which both begin with a divergent approach and end with a convergent one. In the Double Diamond there are four main stages: discovery, defining, developing and delivery.

Big Idea

The Context: Design Thinking approach

From the 2000s, Design Thinking has become a priority in the managerial agenda. The success of this creative problem solving approach is mainly due to two forces: the rising of the creative class, such as designers, and the open innovation concept, which means the need for a broader point of view and external knowledge. Design thinking is based on analyzing and framing an existing problem with a human-centered approach, starting from the understanding of customers’ needs and developing an iterative and holistic process.

The main phases are [2] :

  • Frame a Question: the working team has to be inspired to understand the customers’ needs
  • Gather Inspiration: pursue a qualitative research and field investigation, discovering a useful insight.
  • Generate Ideas: from the problem understanding, to a new and creative solution
  • Make Ideas Tangible: concretize the idea with prototypes
  • Test to Learn: collect feedback and refine the prototype
  • Share the story: reaching the final solution, share it with coworkers and customers.

The Model: Double Diamond

Visualisation of the Double Diamond by the British Design Council. Source:

The Double Diamond model, known also as the 4D model, was developed by the British Design Council in 2004. The model was born to increase the awareness and to promote the value of "design management" as a discipline, and more in general to spread the design strategy approach in the project management field. As a matter of fact, design approach was not widely considered for coping with complex projects, due to the lack of a concrete model to follow and to a poor visibility. This issue inspired Richard Eisermann, Director of Design and Innovation at the Design Council, who decided to gather all the techniques and methods used at the Design Council and then create a framework with them, finding a common path. Jonathan Ball, a strategist of Eisermann's team, remembers the beginning of the process with this words [3]:

As Richard got his feet under the table, he was excited to see the new work at Design Council and the breadth of challenges that were being addressed. He realized that Design Council talked about process – the design process – but wasn't explicit about how this process was defined.”

Finally, this process leads to the creation of the Double Diamond model and of another Design Council resource, the Methods Bank.

Nowadays, the Double Diamond model is a project management tool spread worldwide: its strength is to help in coping with projects' complexity. In particular, the model gives a path to follow and some milestones to pursue. Indeed, it is part of the planning phase of a project, as it defines when to do the activities needed to reach the final output. The framework is characterized by an outside-in direction where users are the starting point. The model’s name recall the shape of the model made by two main areas: the first diamond is the Problem Space, where the problem is explored with a broader view (divergent phase) and consequently with a deeper and more focused one (convergent phase). Here, the goal is to design the right thing. Then, the following diamond is the Solution Space, where the problem is implemented in a solution through concrete actions, such as testing and prototyping. In this phase, the objective is to design things right. Moreover, in the Double Diamond model there are four main phases to follow: in the Problem space there are the Discover and the Define phases, on the other hand the Solution space starts with the Develop phase and the last Deliver phase.

The Main Pillars

Before proceeding with the application of the model, there are three key principles to understand. The following points are in fact at the basis of the Double Diamond model, so to exploit and follow this process at its best they have to be known and respected [4].

Framing and Reframing

The Double Diamond model alternates a framing process and a reframing one. In the framing phase the difficulty is gathering a huge amount of data and finding a sense in them. In fact, during this process is crucial to identify the meaningful information and create new patterns that link them. Finally, this work will lead to the creation of models and the discovery of insights. The Reframe activity is necessary to focus on the real problem: usually the creative problem-solving deals with wicked or ill-defined problems, where the roots of the problem are ambiguous and not precise. Then, the reframing leads to a new point of view of the problem, finding new alternative way of solving it.

Creativity and Abductive thinking

Since Double Diamond is based on the designing thinking approach, creativity has a primary role. The basic “reasoning pattern” in science follows the induction and the deduction model, while creativity relies on the abductive thinking. Deductive thinking is based on testing and evaluating theory, the players in the situation and how they behave and cooperate are already know, so the result needs to be foreseen from those established factors. On the other hand, inductive thinking starts with an empirical observation with the aim of developing a theory. Therefore, the results can be observed and the players are known, while the “how” and their interaction has to be explained. Finally, the abductive thinking starts with empirical observation that are deviated or unmatched from the theory, and aims at developing new understanding and creating something new. Indeed, it’s based on understanding the present in the light of the possible, building hypotheses that can be tested and eventually confirmed in a future.


The main characters in the Double Diamond process are users and designers. The problem solving process starts with the users, their problems and attitudes, which designers during the various phases will have to understand and solve. Indeed, the Double Diamond is a human-centered design approach that starts with people and end with a solution tailor made to suit their needs. In order to succeed and accomplish this goal, designers need to build a deep empathy with users.


The Double Diamond model offers a guideline for building a project, dealing with its complexity and pursuing an innovative solution to an existing problem. This final goal is reached by exploiting a "think out of the box" mindset, through which designers find innovative solution disrupting traditional patterns of thinking, exploring new paths and discovering unseen territories. It is a flexible and versatile model, so it can be adapted in many situation and projects. As a matter of fact, the Design Council brings some example on how it can be used [3]:

  • to start with the assessment of project type and to understand the right way to face the specific challenge
  • to help a ordering and organizing between several projects, to assess their priority considering the relationship, the stage or approach
  • as a way to make the team starting to focus and collaborate at the first stage of a project
  • as a tool for beginning to shape the strategy and management of a project
  • to control the stage of the process answering the question ‘where we are in the project’
  • to help the team work to stay focus and don't get lost in the divergent phases - so the discover and the develop ones.
  • to give a pattern in the research.

Moreover, depending on the project, the size of the diamonds may vary, for example it can be useful to exploit only the first diamond without implementing the solution space, or the contrary. It is also an adaptive and iterative process, therefore the designer has to be ready to go back to the previous stage at any point of the process. The creativity required by this framework is based on a teamwork, as it is necessary to collect many points of view and idea. Thus, the best option is to create a team with people with different backgrounds and cultures, as they will see the tasks with different lenses.

The Process: the Four Phases


The first diverging step in the Double Diamond process starts from the users and their needs. Designers need to understand the different user categories, empathizing with them through interviews and observations, conducting both desk and field researches and finally classify the people’s desires. Indeed, it can be also considered as the research phase of a project. In a practical point of view, the Design Council provides useful advices to conduct this phase [5] :

  • Create a project space: find a dedicated project zone, where people feel comfortable to work in and where all the materials and information needed can be collected. The environment needs to be polish, but without worrying in being a perfectionist when presenting the work, as it is more likely to receive constructive comments on a work in progress then in a work that looks already finished.
  • Observation: this part of the field research is about watching people interacting with a specific service or environment to identify where the problem occur. It is raccomended to collect the data through photos and videos, that can be analyzed after the observation and shared with the coworkers and clients.
  • User Diaries: this qualitative research consists in asking users to keep a written record of their feelings and attitudes, through media as video, photos and audio, or providing them with a notebook on which they can write their emotions.
  • Being Your Users: creating empathy and relationship with the users putting yourself in their position, accomplishing their tasks and habits. It can be also useful to use empathy tools and simulate particular user characteristics (e.g. wearing a pregnancy suit with a weighted “bump” to understand how is being pregnant).
  • Brainstorming: through this technique, a team work can generate ideas to solve a problem. It is important to fully express every personal thoughts, without being judged or criticized, and then write down every idea. At the end of the process designers can find linkages between the ideas and finally cluster them according to their common characteristics.
  • Choosing a sample: as it is not possible to study all the possible users, to avoid a waste of time and resources, it is useful to chose a sample of users that have the most influencing behaviors and attributes. Though, the selected user often are not the one that most represent the final target, in fact identifying extreme users or non-representative ones can bring useful insights as well.
  • Quantitative surveys: collecting statistical data through general or ad-hoc surveys in order to understand the big picture, trends and needs. It could be useful to involve a specialist market research agency.
  • Fast visualization: visualizing ideas and visual communication through sketches is helpful to understand possible errors or improvements to accomplish.
  • Secondary research: a research on the general context is useful to understand how external factors could influence users’ mind. This step could be accomplished through a desk research, online or through books, and through tools such as PEST analysis.
  • Hopes and fears: in order to create a unified and efficient team, Design Council suggests to set expectations and express personal hopes and fears regarding the project, then share them with the team and discuss the outcomes.


All the gathered data need to be interpreted and in this converging phase is important to find patterns and new linkages between them, with the objective to find an innovative insight, and finally align the users’ need with the business goals. Finally, define the “how might we” questions. These questions help the designers to focus on what are the tasks and the opportunities to solve in the next phase. The methods below are useful instruments to reach the final goal of this phase [6] :

  • Focus groups: this activity is about joining from six to ten persons together with a moderator that ask them precise questions or exercises and investigate about their ideas and reaction.
  • Assessment criteria: after brainstorming and agreeing on a set of criteria, select the ideas that are worth to be developed in the next phases. A way to do that is using a score system.
  • Comparing notes: it consists in a visual technique to prioritize a big number of data. It is about writing down the ideas and eliminating the one that doesn’t have a big impact on the project. Finally, creating clusters with the similar one. As a result, there will be a list in order of importance of groups of ideas
  • Drivers and hurdles: here, designers will understand where to spend more energies and efforts on the project. By brainstorming with the team and the stakeholders, designers identify the motivators and the barriers to the project’s success.
  • Customer journey mapping: it is a big picture on the experience of the customer. It is useful to visualize and understand the key moment and touchpoints.


The first step of the Solution space is the ideation phase. It is about generating alternative ideas to solve the how might we questions, evaluate them in terms of desirability, viability and feasibility and chose the most promising one. In this creative phase, designers have to express all their ideas between each other through brainstorming and brainwriting session. Then, the selected idea has to be designed and visualized. Here, designers can exploits the following methods [7] :

  • Character profile: designers should invent a profile of a user, defining a visual identity with pictures, describing its personality and lifestyle. The resulting person has to be as real as possible, so designers can better imagine how the problem and the solution will impact the user.
  • Scenarios: define the situation where users will enjoy the offered solution, understanding how it will work in the users context and identifying key moments of the users-project relation. Express these scenarios with a storyboard.
  • Role-playing: the team will physically act the interaction between the users and the solution. This activity will help designers to understand possible obstacles and refine the project, especially it is useful to focus on the relation between people in a service context.
  • Service blueprints: it is a visual representation of the solution over time, from the user’s journey, identifying the touchpoints, channels and front stage services, to the back office work, such as logistics and IT infrastructure. The resulting map will offer a complete vision of the project, where every parts need to be coherent and well linked with each other.
  • Physical prototyping: building a model of the project and concretize the idea. Firstly, the model will be a draft that can be refine after testing it and receiving feedbacks. In fact, prototypes are useful to communicate the idea to clients and stakeholders.


Finally, the last step in the Double Diamond model consists in implementing the idea. As it is an iterative process, the prototypes has to be refined and correct according to the feedbacks received, and at last release a solution that perfectly suits to the need of the users. In order to produce and launch the final version of the service or product, designers can follow these methods [8] :

  • Phasing: test the final result on a growing number of users, starting with a small group and keep adding people. In this way, wherever errors occur, they won’t be experienced by every user but only by a small part. Thus, keep adjusting the product and testing it.
  • Final testing: this method ensures the quality of the final result before manufacturing all the production. Create the first item, check on eventual problems and test it in the environment.
  • Evaluation: report the feedback of the project after the launch, through customer satisfaction surveys, questionnaire and by comparing data about your product and the competitor’s one. This step is useful especially for implementing future projects and versions.
  • Feedback loops: suggestions and feedbacks that come to the organization indirectly. For example through distributors or sales people that interact with clients. As the evaluation method, the feedback loops are useful to improve future projects.
  • Methods banks: it is about documenting and communicating the design methods in an organization, to avoid redundancy and improving efficiency in the design process. This tool can be use internally in the organization, or externally as well, to improve open innovation and to share opinions and feedbacks.


Double Diamond model can be adapted to many fields and levels of a business. In fact, it is a problem-solving framework that combines a holistic user-centered approach with a more rational and analytical research, which makes the model flexible and not only for designers. Though, some aspects of a project are not included in this model but are actually important for the organization and the project’s success, so they need to be integrated through additional tools. For example, the economic feasibility is not really considered in the creative process. In addition, the double diamond model doesn’t consider the specific roles of the team members inside the group, while the cooperation and relation within the group is really important to accomplish an efficient final goal.

Annotated Bibliography : the Design Council website provides a broad and deep understanding of the Double Diamond model. Going through the website, the users can find the history of the model, its meaning and its application. Indeed, it has been the main source of information and inspiration for this article. : the website of the online school IDEO U provides a wide knowledge on design thinking and design based approach, with the aim to help organizations to grow and innovate. The blog, the podcast and more in general the articles about design thinking are very useful to learn about this new project approach and how to apply it.

Florida R. The Rise of The Creative Class. Basic Books; 10th edition, 2012. In this book the author shows how our world is changing, moved by a new creative way that is involving not only the traditional creative class, such us designers, but every aspects of our society and every work position, from the lawyer to the manager. It is a very inspiring book that makes the reader realizing how new methods and new points of view are arising.

Bason C. Leading Public Design: Discovering Human-Centred Governance. Bristol University Press, Policy Press; 1st edition, 2017. This book shows to the readers the the role of Design thinking in a complex environment, especially how it can bring to new and innovative solution. It explains the pillars of the design thinking approach, so the right mindset to work with the Double Diamond model.


  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. Bason C. Leading Public Design: Discovering Human-Centred Governance. Bristol University Press, Policy Press; 1st edition, 2017.
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