Prototyping can be used in different ways depending on the nature and constraints of a project. It can include sketch modelling to quickly represent an idea to a project stakeholder, or more refined prototypes can be used to communicate how a finished outcome may look or feel.


This phase focuses on building the proposed design outcome or project deliverables; it identifies the various elements required and considers their relation and composition. By sketching and comparing numerous means of delivering the outcome’s value, it is possible to identify the most suited to the aims identified earlier in the project.


After identifying a topic or initial brief, research into the area can begin. Using a combination of desk and field research, ethnographic methods, journey mapping and workshops with project stakeholders; a holistic understanding of the individuals, issues and aims within the chosen area can be attained.


Following research, the evidence gathered can be translated into designable insights, opportunities and concepts. This process aims to identify underlying causes and effects, and uses concept generation to propose potential (and alternative) outcomes to project stakeholders.

The design process is rarely a linear one, however the following methodology outlines the various phases a project may go through in order to deliver a design outcome.


Depending on the nature of a project and it’s deliverables every phase may not be suitable, included or undertaken in the order shown below.


This methodology has been developed and implemented as a means of consistently delivering innovative and robust design solutions.


Projects can start in many different ways and stakeholders may not always have a clear idea of what they need or want. In this way a project can begin with a relatively open design brief or an area of interest (or topic) in which change or improvement is desired.


This can become the starting phase of a design project, especially if there are clear ideas about the desired project outcome. Alternatively a bespoke outcome can be proposed based on the outputs of the Synthesis Phase.


Once an outcome has been proposed, similar or comparable solutions that are already implemented elsewhere can be explored. Through this it is possible to better understand a target audience or market and identify potential obstacles prior to development.


Prototypes can be used to communicate the final outcome to stakeholders. This enables the opportunity to evaluate how stakeholders interact with a proposal and allows them to offer informed feedback. Based on this feedback it is then possible to modify prototypes, repeat testing and ensure the outcome performs effectively.


Once the details of the outcome are refined through testing, it is then possible to produce or implement. This can vary depending on the nature of the project solution; from overseeing a third party manufacturer to assembling an operations team to deliver a proposal.


Finally, it is important to continue to evaluate the changing needs and aspirations of project stakeholders. By doing this it is possible to ensure that a design outcome continues to meet the requirements of those that use or are affected by it.

Jargon Translation

Design Outcome: The output of a design project; this can be (but is not limited to) service, graphic, product or report based outcomes.


Project Stakeholders: The intended recipients of a Design Outcome; this can be (but is not limited to) clients, a client’s service users, customers, markets or a specific demographic (eg. Romanian dog lovers).


Desk & Field Research: Desk Research traditionally consists of second hand research; books, published papers, reports and web articles. Field Research is conducted first hand; frequently with Project Stakeholders and tends to be more specific in focus and results.


Ethnography: The study of people and cultures.


Journey Mapping: The visual representation of existing Stakeholder experiences and interactions.


Holistic: Understanding the interconnected parts of an issue as part of the wider context in which it exists.


Implementation: The process of putting a Design Outcome into effect.


Luke McKinney is a Edinburgh based designer; solving problems through design within private, public & third sector organisations.


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