Design Learning

By Phil Nutley, Head of Experience Design at CCD.

I first came across the Double Diamond as a Design Associate at the Design Council.

For me, it helped simplify through design process, how to navigate complex organisations, systems, services, people and process.

Image Credit: Design Council

I’m often still asked about the value of design and design thinking and how we can enable better services with a broader range of stakeholders.


The Double Diamond is synonymous with re-framing a design-led problem. It’s a very simple diagram that took a few clever souls, the patience to see an opportunity to share the design process and how it can tackle a far broader set of problems, helping to re-frame our ever increasingly complex digital and physical world.

However, what lies hidden beneath organisational complexity when applying this design methodology, begins to uncover a far broader set of unanswerable questions.

The trouble is as you blend this across complex structures, what is hidden beyond the simple structure of two diamonds is more problematic than we often consider at first sight.

As you step back and open up new ways of seeing a problem space, designing through moments like these can feel like you are treading in mud. For those experiencing design thinking for the first time, it can make you feel like you’ve taken a step back too far.

This can cause huge frustrations, for individuals, teams and project sponsors, with the design lead needing an empathetic approach to listening and working alongside teams to help them unlearn and see the world around them through a different lens. This design learning is a key step in re-framing problems together.

I’d like to focus in on the left diamond, as I see its ability is not only to step back and re-frame, but to also educate the design team to relearn three important rules;

1.   Consensus around the problem you are trying to tackle earlier

2.   Alignment of teams across internal and external services

3.   Helping to improve communication across all touch points

In a world of complexity where we lean heavily on data to provide all of the evidence we desire, the ability to step back and become more human is needed more and more. The re-framing of a problem space together feels counter to our need to produce an urgent answer.

The ambiguity felt within the ‘left diamond’ is a great space to kick start an idea, but it can often be a lonely space to stand with your team, armed only with a box of sticky backed pieces of paper – and a set of large black markers! By stepping back you also begin to open up a wider set of hidden cultural issues that can, if not managed well, suffocate the project.

The left diamond can have the most impact early on in projects, from finding collective insights to cross-pollinating ways of seeing gaps and opportunities together and deciding how to deliver change.

As individuals, we are driven by pressures from personal KPI’s and organisational structure that naturally make us want to run towards an answer. The left diamond allows people to step back and ask bigger questions of themselves and the organisation that they work within. This can have a positive impact on their ability to see and feel projects from many new unseen angles. The results I have experienced have fundamentally changed the way people unlearn and rethink products and services. The benefit is often better ‘joined up’ services and experiences for internal teams and for end users alike.

Service design mapping

The left diamond for the next 15 years needs a new purpose. I believe we should amplify and build on how ‘design learning’ and the education through problem solving collaboratively, has more strategic value than we give it credit sometimes.

What design thinking and the two diamond’s do is help blend digital-led products with human and physical infrastructure earlier on in the product cycle or journey.

The educative process of design-led projects is often seen as a softer component over an increase in numerical value. I think that both are of equal value to any organisation, and can be structured so within the design learning arena.

A design-led approach to products and services using a double diamond framework makes design learning far more accessible to a broader set of teams from across an organisation. It continues to connect and enable co-creation and will help build new agile businesses, opening up new opportunities to design in-tandem with end users.


Phil Nutley

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