The Double Diamond: A Recipe For Success

Ally Binns | August 17, 2020

Time to read: 7 mins

The Double Diamond is a creative design process developed by the British Design Council in 2005.

The model is a framework for innovation and a visual description of the design process.

The Double Diamond is widely known within the design community. However, the methodology can be applied to different industries as a useful tool to frame, structure and solve creative challenges.

In my previous blog post, I discussed using design as a tool for business. I briefly mentioned using design as the recipe for success, not just the cherry on the cake. In this article, I want to expand on this concept and show you, how you and your team can shape the way you solve problems and make better design decisions using the Double Diamond process.

During lockdown, one of our favourite pastimes has been baking. We’ve all been cooking up a storm in the kitchen, from banana bread to brownies. So, following this confectionary theme, let’s think of your business’s product or service as a cake.

Recipe for design success

Your cake has three essential parts:

  1. The sponge: The sponge is the main structure of a cake. It holds everything together and acts as a platform to support any decorative features. Think of the sponge as your product or service.
  2. The filling: The filling makes the cake taste good. Without the filling, the cake would be dry and lack flavour. These are your USPs or value proposition.
  3. The cherry on top: The decorative part of your cake. This is what makes your cake look good. The aesthetics that makes your product or service appealing to your target market.Double Diamond Design

The third stage is where many businesses traditionally consider design — the finishing touch of a logo or packaging. But, what if we used design thinking throughout the whole cake baking experience, from start to finish? This is where the Double Diamond model can really help shape the creative process.

The Discovery Stage: Picking The Right Recipe

The first stage of the Double Diamond is the Discovery stage. This is the stage where we take the time to understand our problem fully. We need a good understanding of the people affected and their needs in order to solve their issue.

In other words, you need to pick the right recipe for the right person. You wouldn’t serve a Red Velvet to someone who only liked a Victoria Sponge – no matter how impressive it looked!

Empathy in designThe Discovery Stage centres around empathy. Empathy is at the heart of design. Using human-centred design thinking methodologies from thought leaders such as IDEO, we can uncover valuable insights that are often overlooked.

The Discovery stage will lead us to questions like:

  • Who is the cake for?
  • What flavours do they like?
  • What’s the occasion?
  • How will they eat it?
  • Where will they eat it?
  • Who will they eat it with?

“An empathic approach fuels our process by ensuring we never forget we’re designing for real people. And as a result, we uncover insights and opportunities for truly creative solutions.” David Kelley

We need to examine, question and challenge our problem, ensuring we pick the correct recipe, style, shape and size of cake for our customer. We can only fully understand and design a desirable product, service or in this case cake; when people’s needs, experiences, wants, and preferences are properly understood. At this stage, we need to explore all the possible solutions and generate a wide range of initial ideas. We call this divergent thinking.

Cooking up design

The Define Stage: Method To The Madness

The second stage of the Double Diamond is the Define Stage. We have gathered a broad range of ideas, researched and carefully selected our cake recipe. Now we need to narrow our focus. We need to bring together our ideas to define the challenge. This is like writing the method for our recipe. You’ve found the right recipe, sourced the best ingredients, but you need to know how to cook the cake.

The Define Stage is characterised by convergent thinking. In the convergent thinking process, the choice is deliberate and conscious. In terms of design, this is where we would assemble a brief.

Recipe book

If you struggle with the prospect of writing a brief check out this article.

The Develop Stage: Improving On The Recipe

The third stage of the Double Diamond is the Development Stage. This marks the start of the physical design process.

Let’s stop talking and start doing. It is crucial at this stage not to get ahead of ourselves. We don’t want to put all of our eggs into one cake shaped basket. In the Develop Stage of the Double Diamond, the aim is to focus on rapid, iterative prototypes. For this analogy, we’ll start with smaller, much more manageable cupcakes. I’ve never met a problem a cupcake couldn’t fix!Prototype iteration

Have you ever tried baking a cake?

In my experience, a cake rarely comes out how you imagined it the first time. Maybe it didn’t rise. It was too dry. You lost track of time and burnt it (again). Sound familiar? This is why the iteration phase is so important. The cake didn’t turn out perfectly the first time – things rarely do.

Next time we make a batch, we will learn, adapt the recipe and try again. You will get a better, more refined cupcake each time. This stage of the Double Diamond is the second divergent thinking stage and generates a wide variety of prototypes that could potentially solve our problem.The cupcake model

Let’s look at The Cupcake Model, which was first coined by Brandon Schauer. By making lots of different smaller cupcakes, we can quickly test our recipe in quite literally a bite-sized manner. It gives the user an idea of the taste, flavours and creativity without all the time and money spent on crafting the final thing.

“Make sure you are building the right ‘it’ before you build ‘it’ right.” Alberto Savoia, former Google Innovation Agitator 

To really make sure we’re on the right track we should have a bake sale. A bake sale will help us determine what sponge, flavours or decoration work best together, what doesn’t and why. Seeing real users interact and test an early version of our cake will highlight any issues we have not anticipated. Using this insight, we can again adapt our recipe and ingredients to suit our audience better. This is consumer testing.

Idea generation

The Deliver stage: Completing The Cake

Now we have written our method, refined our recipe and tested our cupcakes; we are ready to bake our final cake. The Delivery Stage is the fourth stage of the Double Diamond.

The delivery process revolves around convergent thinking, leading us to the final concept, production and launch of a product. We’ve baked the perfect sponge, carefully crafted the filling and added the all-important cherry on top, adding value through design thinking at every stage.

Voilà: Our cake is ready to market to the real world.

An essential ingredient we haven’t mentioned is the role of leadership and engagement. You need to create a culture of success to encourage innovation and provide room for experimentation and learning. A head chef should always lead by example.

The Wrap-up

The double diamond

Design is an extremely powerful tool. It’s important to understand the Double Diamond process is not linear but a continually evolving cycle of repeating stages. Understanding the power of design and practising design thinking through the whole creative process might just be the secret ingredients in your next big business challenge.

To recap, think about:

  • The Discovery Stage
  • The Define Stage
  • The Develop Stage
  • The Delivery Stage

Thank’s for reading! Don’t forget to like and share.