Double diamond: A design process model
Developed by Phillip Dyrberg
This article describes the Design Thinking model Double Diamond with a particular focus on how the model is applicable in the context of project management and what limitations it holds. The British Design Council developed the Double Diamond model in 2005 based on case studies from Design Departments at 11 international companies. The model was visualized by a figure consisting of two diamonds, the first diamond referring to the problem space and the second the solution space. The Double Diamond model describes four general stages, which can help the user to navigate through complex processes in a structured manner. Each of the four stages is characterized by what has been described as either divergent- or convergent thinking: Discover (Divergent), Define (Convergent), Develop (Divergent), and Deliver (Convergent). Thus, the principle is that the user is diverging before converging. The initial Discover-stage aims to investigate, explore and identify the stakeholder needs while simultaneously seeking to understand the complexity of the problem. The Define-stage delimits the interpretations based on the Discover-stage findings, aiming to obtain a clear definition of the problem. The third stage, Develop, aims to acquire various solutions, which can address the problem. The Deliver-stage entails final testing of the solutions pursuing an improved outcome followed by feedback sessions on the process. Connecting the model to the various project management life cycles shows that the Double Diamond is not an excellent fit for all types of life cycles. However, the model does appear to be an appropriate Project Management framework in some cases, e.g., when running a project in a predictive life cycle to obtain a structured project plan with a critical focus on the problem- and solution space from the initial stages. Further, it is discussed that the model contains certain limitations, e.g., its structure has been criticized for being too linear, which does not align with today’s agile and iterative way of applying Design Thinking or Project Management.
The Double Diamond in the context of Project Management
Design Thinking & Project Management
The British Design Council developed the Double Diamond model in 2005 based on the concept of Design Thinking, which has been defined and described by various authors. However, most of the authors, who have been involved with Design Thinking, associate the concept with subjects such as creative processing, problem-solving, and business innovation. IDEO, an international design, and innovation consulting firm, describes Design Thinking as followed:
“Design thinking has a human-centered core. It encourages organizations to focus on the people they're creating for, which leads to better products, services, and internal processes. The process starts with taking action and understanding the right questions. It’s about embracing simple mindset shifts and tackling problems from a new direction.“
The Design Thinking approach fits well in the context of Project Management as it facilitates and encourages innovative solutions based mainly on human resources. Many common denominators exist between the two approaches, which is why the Design Thinking model Double Diamond can be tied to several specific processes within Project Management. The Double Diamond fits the structuring and planning of Project Management, why the different life cycle concepts are reviewed based on the Project Management standards. Specifically, it is addressed how the Double Diamond is applied in a predictive or adaptive life cycle. There are various other angles that the Double Diamond can be viewed from, e.g., in the context of setting up Program Governance, however these are not considered here.
The Double Diamond & Project Management
The Double Diamond model involves four phases. The first two phases conceptually are placed in the first diamond - the problem space. The last two phases constitute the second diamond - the solution space. Figure 1 visualizes the Double Diamond model.
As illustrated in Figure 1, each of the four phases in the model is characterized by either divergent- or convergent thinking. Divergent thinking entails generating several creative and innovative ideas, whereas convergent thinking subsequently structures and narrows down the ideas (and information) into an optimal solution to the problem. Figure 2 visualizes the concept of divergent- and convergent thinking:
The Double Diamond model urges the Project Manager to diverge before converging, making it a great framework to structure- or plan a project. The Double Diamond is particularly beneficial due to the early and thorough attention paid to the problem- and solution space, e.g., developing a new product or service in an organization. When applied, one should initiate from the left in the first quarter of the diamond, sequentially processing through each phase until finished. However, the Double Diamond must be supplemented by other design and project management tools and methods to succeed in this. The British Design Council describes the Double Diamond as followed:
“The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking).“
The Double Diamond model is thus clearly a sequential processing framework. While there exist many different versions of the Double Diamond model, this article is concerned with the original model developed in 2005. The model was developed based on an extensive study, which resulted in an enormous amount of factual literature to carry out the research. However, the British Design Council developed a new, more complex version of the original model, changing the name to the Framework for Innovation. The Framework for Innovation may be considered the current state of the art on this topic; this is further addressed at the end of this section and in Section 3 when assessing if there are any limitations tied to the Double Diamond.
The project life cycle
It is crucial for the user to understand which type of life cycle the Double Diamond model can be applied in. Theory on the project life cycle is therefore explained based on the PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2 standards. Although each project consists of unique tasks and processes, every project contains a life cycle, including different project phases between the initiation- and completion of a project. The PMBOK Guide defines a project phase as "a collection of logically related project activities that culminates in the completion of one or more deliverables". The phases in a life cycle can be sequential, iterative, or overlapping. The PMBOK Guide similarly defines the project life cycle as "the series of phases that a project passes through from its start to its completion". ISO 21500 agrees on the definition. Further, the structure of a project life cycle entails the following four generic phases according to the PMBOK Guide:
- "Starting the project
- Organizing and preparing
- Carrying out the work
- Closing the project"
PRINCE2, the British standard of project management, defines the project life cycle structure as the following stages:
- "Initiation stage
- Subsequent stage(s)
- Final stage"
There might only be two stages in a life cycle depending on the particular project, e.g., if the project is simple, it would only consist of an initiation- and a completion (final) stage. A project life cycle can either be adaptive or predictive.
Predictive & adaptive life cycles – which is the better fit for the Double Diamond?
The predictive life cycle, also known as the waterfall life cycle, is characterized as rigid and sequential. In contrast, the adaptive life cycle is characterized as agile, iterative, and sometimes hybrid, implying a combination of predictive and adaptive approaches. In the adaptive life cycle, projects are broken down into more minor, progressively repetitive phases, which corresponds with the PMBOK Guide referring to it as the "agile or change-driven life cycle". Table 1 visualizes the differences between the two types of life cycles.
The Double Diamond is a better fit for the predictive life cycle due to the linear and sequential processes incorporated into the model. When applying the Double Diamond model, the user sequentially processes through each of the four phases starting from the Discover phase. In cases where the project life cycle does not fit well into the sequential or linear structure of the model, e.g., a project, which takes place in a rapidly changing environment, it may be challenging to navigate in the Double Diamond framework. Nevertheless, it may be applied in an adaptive life cycle, despite the fact that the British Design Council only included a single example of a company that used an agile approach in ‘A study of the design process'. The company used in the study is Yahoo!, and interestingly one of their employees was cited for the following comment: “Yahoo! has a ‘one size doesn't fit all’ attitude towards the concept of a formalized design process.” , which seems to be in direct opposition to what the Double Diamond model applies.
The Framework for Innovation
The British Design Council has developed an evolved version of the Double Diamond model, given the name: The Framework for Innovation.
As seen in Figure 3, the framework is still visualized as two diamonds and includes the identical four phases. However, the Framework for Innovation differs from the Double Diamond model by the British Design Council explicitly emphasizing that “This is not a linear process as the arrows on the diagram show” . Besides the newly added arrows, they also enhanced the complexity of the model by including the following factors to promote innovation:
- Design Principles
- Methods Bank
The Framework for Innovation appears to be a better fit for the adaptive life cycle than the Double Diamond model is. The expanded version includes newly added components, which might affect the model negatively as it becomes complicated and time-consuming to use. A strength of the Double Diamond is in fact the degree of simplicity, where the user is thinking divergently before thinking convergently, which relates to the problem- and solution space.
As discussed, the Double Diamond model is better suited to be used in a predictive life cycle than in an adaptive life cycle. However, the model may still be applicable in multiple types of industries even if there are areas for which it is better suited, e.g., industries and projects that run in a rigid sequence, which typically characterizes a predictive life cycle. The Double Diamond model is not particularly well suited for projects requiring a high degree of flexibility or lack of essential data at the beginning of the project, e.g., projects dealing with software development.
The Double Diamond needs to be supplemented by a series of Design- and Project Management tools. Concrete tools and methods for the Project Manager to apply during the different phases are enlightened at the end of the section, respectively, in Table 2 and Table 3.
The Discover phase takes place at the beginning of a project, characterized by divergent thinking in which the user must examine a wide range of problems, user needs, and opportunities. As mentioned previously, divergent thinking entails generating numerous new ideas and gathering new information, which is the objective of this phase. However, the focus is on the problem space.
In the Discover phase, all data and information were gathered to identify a problem; thus, a combination of this new knowledge, insights, and ideas can be analyzed and structured in the Define phase. Here, convergent thinking should be used to structure, separate, and narrow down the information gathered in the Discover phase, such as user needs, competitive environments, trends, and market data. When going through the phase, it is essential to ensure that everyone related to the project, both internally and externally, agrees on the project's context before moving on to the next phase.
The Discover- and Define phases are completed constituting the first diamond of the model, which aims to obtain new insights, identify, and understand the problem. The objective in the Develop phase is to generate ideas, which seek to solve the problem identified. The solutions are transformed into prototypes and tested continuously during the Develop phase.
In the Deliver phase, the process is near completion and set to go through the closing steps. The objective is to complete final testing, production, launching, and evaluations. The latter makes the user reconsider whether the process was a success or not, which may result in valuable information on improving future projects, e.g., whether the application of methods involved in each phase has been performed appropriately.
Concrete tools & methods to apply in the four phases
The following section provides guidance on concrete tools and methods, which can be applied during each of the four phases. Just as there are different variants of the Double Diamond model, several different suggestions for methods and tools can be applied during each phase. According to the British Design Council, table 2 outlines the tools needed in each phase of the Double Diamond. Each tool and method can be further studied in ‘A study of the design process'.
Furthermore, a handful of concrete Project Management tools applicable in each of the four phases are listed in Table 3. These tools and methods can be further studied in the PMBOK Guide; see references shown in the table.
Discussion of limitations and benefits tied to the Double Diamond
As already mentioned, there are both strengths and weaknesses tied to applying the Double Diamond in Project Management. When considering whether to apply the model to a project, the user should thus be aware of its limitations. One of these is the Double Diamond's relatively linear process, limiting the application possibilities, as the model is not suitable for projects running in an Adaptive life cycle. Therefore, in projects in a flexible and fast-paced environment, the use of another framework to structure and plan the project, e.g., SCRUM rather than the Double Diamond should be considered. Another limitation tied to the model involves whether the Double Diamond contains a sufficient number of components to guide the user appropriately. For instance, when thinking divergently, several ideas are generated; however, this process can, in principle, take too much time if nothing is forcing the convergent mindset to take over. Conversely, the Double Diamond's rigid and sequential structure may be critical factors to consider when deciding on using the framework or not as it makes the model relatively easy to apply, assuming the project environment is suitable. The Double Diamond must be supplemented by other design and project management tools and methods to succeed in structuring and planning a project, e.g., the tools included in Table 3 are all elaborated on in the PMBOK Guide. The Framework for Innovation is an extended and evolved version of the Double Diamond; however, both models are built on the same skeleton. Yet, the Framework for Innovation rectifies what has been considered the weakest feature for the original Double Diamond; its linearity. In contrast, the British Design Council may have overdone the number of features added to the Framework for Innovation, making it seem cumbersome and unmanageable in some situations. All taken together, the key element to take into consideration on whether to use the Double Diamond or not is the type of the project life cycle and whether the Double Diamond is the most appropriate fit.
This section provides 5 key references for additional information on subjects, which are relevant when applying the Double Diamond. In principle, references could be made to all the tools and methods, which are recommended to perform during each of the phases of the model. However, this would end up in too many references, which is why only a few of them are referred to instead.
- Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process.: Based on the Double Diamond model, a study was performed by the British Design Council on 11 eleven international brands seeking information on how these companies manage the design process in their business.
- Design Council. What is the framework for innovation? Design Council's evolved Double Diamond: The link goes through how the Framework for Innovation differentiates from the Double Diamond model. In particular, it is relevant for the reader to study the newly added components to the framework, which are not closely studied in this article.
- Project Management Institute, Inc. (2017). Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition).: PMBOK® Guide is a vital source for Project Management, which can be used in all industries. The reader should focus on studying the Project Management tools included in Table 3, as these are not explained in this article.
- Banathy, Bela H. (1996). Designing Social Systems in a Changing World.: This book by Banathy does not explicitly review the Double Diamond. However, she examines a wide range of design tools, which are very relevant for the different phases in the model. Also, the book argues for the use of a divergent and convergent mindset.
- Dorst, Kees; Cross, Nigel. (2001). Creativity in the design process: co-evolution of problem–solution: Based on many aspects, the paper evaluates a series of protocol studies of nine seasoned industrial designers who yielded empirical evidence on design processes. It also uses observations to affirm the general validity of a paradigm of creative design as the co-evolution of problem/solution spaces.
- ↑ Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 6. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. Page 9-10
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 8. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 14. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 19-20. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 23-25. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. Page 2-5
- ↑ IDEO. What is Design Thinking? Retrieved Februar 15, 2021. Link: https://www.ideou.com/blogs/inspiration/what-is-design-thinking."
- ↑ Project Management Institute, Inc. (2017). Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition).
- ↑ AXELOS (2017). Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 6-7. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 British Design Council. Retrieved Februar 10, 2021. Link: https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/what-framework-innovation-design-councils-evolved-double-diamond"
- ↑ Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Chapter: ‘The design process’. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Project Management Institute, Inc. (2017). Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition). Section 1.5: The project life cycle
- ↑ ISO 21500 International Standard (2012). Guide on Project Management (1th Edition). Page 2
- ↑ AXELOS (2017). Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition. Page 158.
- ↑ AXELOS (2017). Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition. Page 159.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 Project Management Institute, Inc. (2017). Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition). Page 19
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 Design Council. (2005). Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. Page 134. Retrieved from https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf