Creating the right thing in the right way — making sure a problem is well understood before designing a solution.

A design approach focuses on creating the right thing in the right way. The aim is to ensure that the problem is well understood before designing a solution that’s fit for purpose and meets user needs. The Design Council’s Double Diamond model is a visual diagram showing design stages. This is not specific to a type of design - it’s applicable if you’re designing a service, a product, or even a building.

Knowing the problem involves initially divergent then convergent thinking, then solving the problem by divergent exploring of ideas before converging on a final solution

The Double Diamond shows the importance of taking time to understand the problem before designing solutions. Each diamond illustrates the process of exploring or creating many ideas before refining them. The first diamond confirms the problem, and the second designs the solution.

This is not a linear progression. Until we spend time understanding the problem, we do not know how the project will progress. For example, we might find out that we need to do further research, or that we’re ready to develop ideas to test, or that there is no value in doing further work. These outcomes are all valid.

Read more detail about the stages of design.

The design process and agile

Agile is a flexible and collaborative way to develop digital products and services, by working in short bursts in a continuous process of revision and refinement. Agile is an approach to building services, not designing services.

Read more about the Government Digital Service agile delivery.

The design approach works well within agile projects because they both:

  • encourage exploration and trial and error
  • encourage participation and engagement
  • encourage iteration towards solutions
  • rely on high levels of collaboration

There is a lot of overlap between the stages in design and agile phases, both in terminology and in activities. This does not mean that they are the same thing or must be used in the same way.

How we use these methods is evolving as we continue to learn and understand how they complement each other. The design approach in particular is a useful guide to help us look at services as a whole, and not just as digital products.