Double diamond

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The Double Diamond is a design process, proposed by the British Design Council [1], which consists of four stages, divided into two “diamonds”. It puts equal focus on the importance of understanding the problem, as it does find the right solution. The first diamond contains the problem space and the second the solution space. The name, Double Diamond, comes from the visualisation of the different stages: First diverging (expanding the problem or solution space) and then converging (reducing the problem or solution space). At the beginning of a project, designers first enter the “Discover” stage, in which they diverge on the different facets of the problem at hand. This is followed by the “Define” stage in which a specific problem area is converged upon. At this point a design brief is created and the process moves to the solution space, by entering the “Develop” stage, in which designers diverge on different potential solutions to the problem. Finally, the “Deliver” stage begins, in which a solution which best solves the problem is converged upon, by refining and testing it. The Double Diamond framework should shape the project and thereby feed into how the project is planned, managed, and executed. The framework was developed as the result of a study of eleven design departments in world-leading companies, in several different fields. Therefore, it is by nature extremely versatile, and can be applied in design projects in virtually every industry.


Big Idea

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

The Double Diamond is a framework for how to structure a design process. It was put forward by the British Design Council in 2004 [2], after a thorough study of how design departments at eleven world leading companies work. The eleven companies investigated (Alessi, BskyB, BT, LEGO, Microsoft, Starbucks, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Whirlpool, Xerox, and Yahoo!) span across many sectors, and the conclusions can therefore be assumed to be quite universal for design projects. The similarities between the structure of the design process could be graphically represented through two diamonds, containing 4 stages: Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver (figure 1). The stages alternate between focusing on divergent and convergent thought, and the first diamond focuses on the problem space, while the second focuses on the solution space. The Double Diamond framework puts equal focus on understanding the problem, as it does finding a solution.

The Problem Space

According to the Double Diamond framework the design process should start with an investigation of the problem space. It emphasises the importance of a product, system or service solving a problem, to be successful. Furthermore, the problem should be thoroughly understood to be able to develop a solution which actually solves the problem appropriately, rather than healing a symptom of the problem. It is important to abstain from solution-oriented thinking when working in the problem space, as this could cause favouritism of a solution, which may not solve the actual problem. The project is initialised in the Discover stage, during which the project team should focus on divergent thought, to attain a broad and in-depth understanding of the problem. This avoids designers assuming they understand what the problem is, and overlooking its many facets. In the Definition stage, the project team should focus on convergent thought, to have a concrete and well-defined problem to solve. It is important to narrow down the scope to be sure it solves a challenge thoroughly, rather than trying to solve many problems, and not really doing so. It is often at the end of this stage where the project is either killed off or given the green light to continue. The project is formalised by a design brief, or similar.

The Solution Space

The journey into the solution space begins with a problem definition and design brief to develop different solution concepts. As a result of a thorough understanding of the problem space, the design team are experts within the area, and can therefore base ideas and decisions on a solid foundation. The Develop stage focuses on divergent thinking, focusing on developing different solution concepts, in order to have a range of different solution principles. This avoids designers choosing the first solution idea that they have, as this rarely results in finding the best solution. The best results are often obtained when different solutions are created through co-creation, within the team and with target users. The final stage in the Double Diamond framework is Deliver. The project team should begin to converge on one idea, by testing and prototyping the different solutions, and rejecting those which do not work, while improving those which do. As a result the best of many solutions is chosen and refined.

The Framework for Innovation

Visualisation of the Framework for Innovation by the British Design Council. Source:

The Double Diamond has since 2004 been revised and has become the heart of the Framework for Innovation [3]. According to the framework for Innovation the Double Diamond process should be coupled with design principles, a methods bank and a culture of success.

The British Design Council puts forward four key Design Principles. The first is Put people first, stressing the importance of understanding the target audeince, including their needs, strengths and aspirations. The second principle is Communicate visually and inclusively, as this should help gain a shared understanding of problems and ideas. The third principle is Collaborate and co-create, emphasising what can be gained from working together and inspiring each other. The final principle is Iterate, iterate, iterate which should help spot mistakes early, avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and build confident and well tested ideas.

The Methods Bank consists of 25 design methods which the British Design Council has altered or authored, to support innovation. They can either help the design team Explore, Shape or Build, and have been divided into the four different stages of the Double Diamond. Each method is described in terms of what it is, what the goal is and how to do it.

The final element of the framework for Innovation is Creating a Culture of Success. This involves having strong leadership and engagement. Strong leadership can cultivate innovation by allowing projects to be agile. Engagement with people, even outside of the project group lead to innovative and well thought out ideas.

Application and Use

The Double Diamond can be used in practically any design project, where there is a problem or challenge to be solved. The nature of the Double Diamond is flexible and can be made to fit most design projects. In the context of project management, the Double Diamond should be seen as a way to structure your project work. It is the framework which dictates the plan and coordination of activities which ensure that the result of the project plan is an innovative and well-fitting solution. Traditional project management should thus be performed in parallel, and the different activities which occupy the project plan should follow the stages of the Double Diamond. Although the British Design Council present 25 methods which could occupy the project plan, the designer should not feel limited to these.

Often the move between different stages can be defined through a series of milestones, where the discoveries are summarised and presented. The two diamonds can be seen as management stages, described in chapter 3.4 of Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, where the project board should review the progress, plan, business case and risks in order to decide whether to move on with the project (AXELOS, 2017). At the boundary of a management stage the project manager should “review the success of the current management stage, approve the next stage, plan review the updated project plan, confirm continued business justification, and acceptability of the risks” (AXELOS, 2017). For the design team the boarders between the different stages should be soft and can be moved in-between. The project plan should be dynamic, and the process should be under review throughout. Certain projects also require the use of more “diamonds” where the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking are re-applied, perhaps to open-up a solution concept again, before narrowing down on a single solution.


A project based on the Double Diamond starts in the Discover stage in which the goal is to gather a broad range of influences and information to diverge on the problem space. This starts at the very beginning of a project and can be initiated with nothing more than an idea, inspiration, or interest. This could include discovering a social or environmental trend, or by the launch of a competitor product. For the project manager this marks the start of the first management stage, the initiation stage, described in chapter 16 of Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 in which for example the project plan is created, and the business case is refined (AXELOS, 2017).

There are 10 methods suggested by the British Design Council this stage [4]:

  • Creating a project space. Having a dedicated area to meet, organise material and information, can insure better communication and visibility.
  • Observation. Observing stakeholders and actors interact with environments or products can reveal tacit information and problems.
  • User diaries. By asking users to record their interactions with the problem area can gain useful insight into patterns and behaviours.
  • Being your users. Putting yourself in the position of your users can build empathy and a deeper understanding of the problem space.
  • Brainstorming. Brainstorming the problem space is a fast method to generate and collect ideas and information.
  • Choosing a sample. Choosing a small sample of users to include in the project can ensure concrete feedback and ideas, while covering the bulk of your target audience.
  • Quantitative surveys. Statistical data of your target audience can provide a general picture, that can help chose the direction of the project.
  • Fast visualisation. Quick drawings of ideas help communicate them and can in turn lead to new ideas.
  • Secondary research. Looking at published information about your target audience can reveal the context you are working in.
  • Hopes and fears. Having the involved people express their hopes and fears can set expectations and break barriers.

The above list should be used for inspiration, rather than as a complete and final list of steps to go through. The Discover stage should conclude with a wide and deep understanding of the arena the problem exists in.


When moving into the Define stage designers will have a wide set of insights, which they must navigate in order to converge upon the fundamental challenge which the project will seek to solve. This involves creating the possibility to make decisions, and thereby delimit the problem space.

There are 5 methods suggested by the British Design Council this stage [5]:

  • Focus groups. Having 6-10 people having a discussion,n moderated by a facilitator can collect users’ reactions about a topic.
  • Assessment criteria. Defining a set of criteria which ideas can be assessed, based on concerns of different stakeholders, can help make decisions.
  • Comparing notes. Prioritising and sharing information in the team can facilitate the use of information.
  • Drivers and hurdles. Identifying motivators and barriers to the project can help define where the project team should focus their effort.
  • Customer journey mapping. Having a visual representation of a user’s journey when interacting with the system should pin-point pains and gains.

The end of the Define stage is marked by a problem definition, which should lead to a design brief, to be solved in the solution space. For the project manager this is the end of the initiation stage, and the project board should decide whether to move on with the project.


When starting the Develop stage, a design team also enters the solution space. With a clear understanding of a defined problem, the goal of the develop stage is to diverge and look for different design concepts and test how well they can solve the problem. Here the project enters the second management stage, and the project plan should be reviewed and updated.

There are 5 methods suggested by the British Design Council this stage[] :

  • Character Profiles. Creating representations of the different categories of users can stimulate concept development and decision making.
  • Scenarios. Making detailed scenarios in which users interact with your concepts can help understand the context in which it is used, and lead to a more refined concept.
  • Role-playing. Physically acting out interactions with concept prototypes can reveal intuitive responses to products.
  • Service blueprints. A detailed representation of a service concept, showing all touch points, channels and behind the scenes actions ensures that the service concept is complete.
  • Physical prototyping. Building a model of your idea can reveal problems with principles, and insight into the use opportunities of designs.

The develop stage should end in a broad understanding of the solution space, in the form of a range of solutions.


The final stage of the Double Diamond, Deliver, contains all the final steps of the project, including finalising, producing, launching, and evaluating. There are 5 methods suggested by the British Design Council this stage [6]:

  • Phasing. Delivering the solution in steps, means managing risks before a full scale launch.
  • Final testing. Identifying any final problems and checking a solution against standards and regulations can ensure that the product fully solves the problem it should.
  • Evaluation. By gaining feedback on a projects success future projects can improve and adapt.
  • Feedback loops. By gaining feedback indirectly, can reveal otherwise unspoken improvements.
  • Methods banks. Creating a catalogue of methods used in a project can improve and streamline future projects in a portfolio or programme.


Although the Double Diamond framework seems to tackle most of the project process, it is not all encompassing, and it should be used together with other project management practices, such as the one presented by Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. Furthermore, it is also important to understand when to supplement the design principles and methods with other practices.

The Double Diamond makes no mention of the timeframe for the different stages, and it can therefore be difficult to know when to move on. Depending on the size and scope of the design task the time spent on the project should of course vary, but the framework does not provide guidance for when to move between divergent and convergent thinking. This can leave project managers with difficulty in knowing when enough is enough. For example, when has sufficient information about the problem space been gathered? How do we know that the breadth of the solution space has been thoroughly investigated? This can cause the project plan to not leave enough time for the designers to gain what they should from each phase. It takes practice and learning by doing to master time management, in the Double Diamond. It is important to continuously re-evaluate the plan.

The Double Diamond lacks the tools needed to have a holistic understanding of how a solution will fit into systems at different levels. When developing new and innovative solutions it is important to consider the complex system in which it is to exist, and how these will affect each other.

Annotated Bibliography

What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved Double Diamond | Design Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2021, from

The British design council have a webpage dedicated to describing the basics of the Framework for Innovation. This basic and brief understanding of the fundamentals of the concept, straight from the creators. It provides a taste of the method, and proviedes the tools to start using the Framework, as it links to further resources.

Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. (2007).

This report, explains all the findings of the study which lead to the creation of the Double Diamond. It both provides concrete examples and insight into how these eleven world leading companies' design teams operate, as well as the beginnings of the Double Diamond Framework. It should be noted that the information on the Double Diamond is dated, as the model has since then been revised, but it is an interesting read none the less, and the takeaways are still valid, even though they are not part of the current Double Diamond Framework.

AXELOS. (2017). Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition (2017th ed.). Stationery Office Books (TSO).

This book can be seen as a standard or method for best practice of how to manage a project. It can both be used by a project management novice, as well as an expert. the standard can both be read from one end to the other, as well as to look up sections or definitions.


AXELOS. (2017). Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017 Edition (2017th ed.). Stationery Office Books (TSO).

Design Methods Step 1: Discover | Design Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Design Methods Step 2: Define | Design Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Design Methods Step 3: Develop | Design Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Design Methods Step 4: Deliver | Design Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. A study of the design process. (2007).

What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved Double Diamond | Design Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2021, from

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