Ever had that one annoying colleague, who is nagging all the time, with questions, that have super obvious answers? That colleague, who is questioning everything?

What is the difference between Design Thinking and Service Design and a Design Sprint and Lean UX and …?

I have not. I was, and probably still am, that particular person. I just could not see a difference. It was all centred around a user and everything sounded the same to me.

First I was excited about the theory

Read here, why it turned into disappointment

I started, where any great work starts: Google. I looked at charts and read articles. Everything mixed with everything. That meant, I had no choice and needed to do something, that I avoided, whenever possible, while studying. I searched for and read all the original books and papers. For the first time in my professional career, I could tell all the differences between processes, methods, mindsets and alike.

It felt like distinguishing different kinds of beers, by only taking a sip.

But as beer is always crafted with the same process, also all design processes have a common ground. All common design processes share the same intention, only they name it different. You can see all the names, numbered in the order they appear in a certain process, in the following table:

Different names
Different names

Mapping them to the intention of that particular name, the table suddenly looks a lot simpler:

Same intention
Same intention

Understanding purpose through differences

What I ended up with are five distinct process phases, which I naturally had to test. If I would not be able to map all design processes to them, then I would have been wrong and had to start all over again. Luckily I was able to do so:

Same intention
Same intention

What else does the table tell? The processes can mainly be put into two different categories:

  1. Processes that implement a solution and start to learn in the next cycle.
  2. Processes that validate the solution first, implementation follows.

Choosing the right approach depends on your requirements and constraints. Sometimes a pale ale fits better than a pils.

How can everything be shown in one image?

A one-fits-all design process

If they are really all the same, then you would be able to show them in one image. You can see that very image below. But still:

It will probably never be perfect.

Soon after publishing something, you will learn something new. Then an iteration might be needed. But that is what design is about anyway. So here is a process for each and every challenge. You can enter it at any given point. If you have a definition of what you want to test/achieve/solve: Go create it. If not, go back into discovery. If you feel confident, that your creation works: Validate it. If it does not: Go back to creation. If it does: What are you waiting for? Implement it!

Though that is pretty straightforward, you still might need to adapt the process. But that is not a problem, it is flexible and can be tailored to solve any given problem. Cheers.

A one-fits-all Design Process
A one-fits-all Design Process

Want more?

I did not go into too much detail on the different processes. If you want to do so, find literature in the resources section.

You do not want to read the article, but hear a talk about it? You want to have a deep dive conversation? You want to tell me, that I understood it all wrong, because I drank too many beers? Just shoot me a message and invite me for a beer.

Shoutout to Michael Ehrnboeck for telling me, that my first draft was shit.