Design thinking for the real world

Boondoggle SA hosts a monthly design meetup. Our speaker on 7 March 2017 was Simone Carrier.

Below are the key highlights for us:

The four D’s of design: Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver

Design thinking can be presented as unfolding in four phases in the so-called “double diamond” process, as espoused by the UK Design Council. These phases are: Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver.

There are two distinct opportunities to gain user insights – don’t miss out

There are two distinct opportunities for gathering user insights in the process, with the aid of design research. The first is in the beginning during the discovery phase, and the second occurs towards the end of the process during prototyping.

Design research differs from market research in that it is narrow but deep, whereas the latter is broad, but shallow.

Ask ‘why?’ – a lot!

Design research relies on small sample sizes and in-depth interviews, driven with open-ended questions to explore user behaviour. In other words, the researcher should ask “why”, instead of merely accepting the first superficial explanation that an interview subject offers. In fact, Simone’s advice is to ask “why” three times in a row, in order to drill down to significant insights and observations about user behaviour.

Doing design research despite constraints on budget, mandate and time

Design research often happens within the context of real world constraints. The most common constraints are: budget, mandate and time. Nonetheless it is possible – and critical! – to still conduct design research.

Tips for reducing design research costs

Costs can be reduced by not relying on recruiters and doing your own recruitment. Also, find your interview targets in an environment where they are already gathered (such as a doctor’s waiting room or a coffee shop) instead of going to multiple venues. Lastly, prototyping can be scaled down significantly by using (analogue) props and role-playing to test users’ response to a hypothetical prototype or solution.

Tips for dealing with mandate constraints

Mandate constraints are common in the public sector, or wherever the design problem involves vulnerable people (such as children). The trick here is that it is still possible to gain valuable insights without violating the rights of vulnerable users, if the research is done with the caretakers or guardians instead. Similarly, it might not be possible to get a mandate for direct interviews, but it might still be possible to get a mandate for users to participate in unsupervised self-guided (written, photographic or digital) self-reporting.

Tips for dealing with time constraints.

Time constraints can stem from the client not being willing to dedicate much time to such enquiries. Our tip is that clients are more likely to see the value of these interviews if they are present for the first few interviews to hear first-hand the insights and issues that users have regarding the client’s product/service. Demonstrate that often these interviews can be done in a matter of days, compared to the long lead-times associated with traditional market research. Another time constraint that arises is that interview subjects are not willing to sacrifice much time; the trick here is to conduct interviews at times and places that the user is available for a conversation. Simone referred to approaching people in the queue at a coffee shop and offering to buy their coffee, in exchange for a 10-minute interview.

Final thought: Get up from your desk and out of your office!

Design research is best conducted in the environments where the user lives, works and plays.


If you need design solutions, Boondoggle has offices in South Africa, Belgium and the Netherlands and is part of the international Havas network – which means that wherever in the world you’re located we can provide you with our special brand of people-centred design and advertising solutions.