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Welcome to the Design Phase!

Your Discovery Phase is complete or is wrapping up, and you and your team are ready to move into the Design phase. In this phase, the team will build on the research completed in the Discovery phase in order to create action in the form of a designed or evolved product, service, or system from what you learned. In this phase, you and the team will design sustainable products and services that answer the needs of the people on whom you centered your Discovery phase. Use this Concept Guide to help you understand the Why behind the design process. You'll be able to find the How in the upcoming HCD Design Phase Operations Guide. For guidance on How in the meantime, see the Making Design Methods developed by our friends over at 18F.

What Should You Have Done So Far?

Since you have either completed or are wrapping up the Discovery Phase, that means the team has:

Discovery Phase

  • Partnered with stakeholders to understand their broad needs and area of desired investigation.
  • Performed a literary review to understand the quantitative and qualitative data and professional opinions, patterns, project successes and failures that already exists the area of investigation prior to this project.
  • Synthesized that information and identified productive areas work that the team can perform to build upon that published knowledge.
  • Defined, based on that understanding, a problem frame to investigate and received sign off on it from stakeholders.
  • Performed qualitative field research that centers on the experiences and desired futures of the people who live or participate in the area of exploration.
  • Synthesized the qualitative data gathered in that field research and compiled it into insights and opportunities for stakeholders.
  • Communicated those insights and opportunities to stakeholders.
If you're not sure if you've completed all these points, or feel that you need more information or direction on them, please see the Human-Centered Design Discovery Phase Guides, which are also linked above.

What to Expect in the Design Phase

To set you and your team up for success in the Design Phase, this Guide is broken down into several parts. As was stated before, this Guide focuses on the Why of each of these steps. Knowing the Why behind each step will allow you to cross apply what you learn and practice in this Guide into new projects as you continue in your career. These concepts include:

Design Phase

A Note on Timeline:

Each design phase differs depending on the nature of the product, service, or system, the bandwidth and expertise of the team, access to the participants and stakeholders, and the scope of the project itself. If necessary, create a rough map of each of these parameters to understand your timeline.

Templates for this will be provided in the Design Phase Operations Guide, but to start, you can also modify the Project Frame-Reframe template from pages 16-17 of the Discovery Operations Guide for this purpose. Map onto that template the following parameters:

  • What is the nature of your opportunity spaces? Are they big and conceptual? Or smaller and tactical?
  • Do you have a team with many conceptual skills? Or one with deep technical knowledge?
  • Do you have ready access to the stakeholders and participants, or is access less well defined?

If the majority of these answers falls on the upper half of the Project Frame-Reframe template, create a generous timeline for your Design phase. You'll need time to break down your Opportunities into workable parts, to find partners with any technical skills you may need and to get on the calendars of your stakeholders and participants.

On the other hand, if all of your answers fall in the lower, more tactical region of the Project Frame-Reframe template, you might consider expanding your Design phase aim to either take on a slightly larger, more strategic Opportunity space in order to have more impact upon the Delivery of your product, service, or system.