Design Cycles Toolkit

This is a framework used to define the design process within a fast paced environment. Use as a decision framework for time spent on a project while setting clear expectations of what you hope to achieve with stakeholders. Can be used as a negotiating tactic on what the goals are for design.

Cycle Rules

  1. Focus on one user group per cycle.
  2. Tackle one hypothesis per cycle.
  3. Hypotheses should be written before cycle kickoff.
  4. Clear expectations of user needs and how they currently behave. If there are too many unknowns, then we must spend time doing a discovery cycle.
  5. Sprints are intense and have a lot of activities required to be effective. Preserving working time is of the utmost importance.
  6. Completely transparent from estimation, expectations, and outputs.
  7. Use only for known industries and as an existing continuous in-house design process. (If you’re starting a whole new business, setting up a new design practice, or consulting, this process is not sufficient.)
  8. Exposure to your users is required to proceed.
  9. Radically transparent with early and often reviews and sharing moments.

The Design Cycle

A 2 Week Design Process with a structured agenda that represents the 5 key moments of the Design Process.

Typical Agenda

1. Day 1: Project Kickoff Meeting & Understand 
   1. Review existing research and definition artifacts (Journey Maps, UX Observation Database, etc...)
   2. Review existing Analytics and other quantitative data
2. Day 2: (Re)Define Problem and Update Definition Artifacts
   1. What we know. What we think we know. What we don’t know. 
   2. Reframe Problem & Refine Hypotheses
   3. Prep for divergent design workshop
   4. Recruit research participants
3. Days 3-5: Explore Divergent Approaches
   1. Divergent Design Workshop & Individual Sketching
   2. Document 3 broad approaches (Ex. User Flows & Architectures)
   3. Prototype
4. Day 6-7: User Validation & Decide Direction
   1. Document insights
   2. Provide direction recommendations based on user feedback
5. Days 8-10: Refine & Deliver Output
   1. Design Team Critique and Stakeholder Review
   2. Refine deliverables

Typical Schedule

Design Cycle Schedule

How to Use Cycles for Projects

Small Project Medium Project Large Project
1 cycle (2 weeks) 2 cycles (4 weeks) 3 cycles (6 weeks)
Immediately into detailed design 1st cycle - architecture & flow 1st cycle - broad conceptual evaluation
Leverage only pre-existing data and research findings 2nd cycle = detailed design 2nd cycle = architecture & flow
    3rd cycle = detailed design & refinements

Other Cycle Types

Discovery Cycle

Mini Design Cycle (Design Sprint)

Extra Mini Design Cycle

Typical Project Uses




Refinement Mini Cycle

New Product