[Apologies for the multiple preambles here! This note is added to say that deeper and clearer links – at least to the use of diamonds, and divergent and convergent thinking – have been provided by others and are in the replies to this piece]
I just did a LinkedIn post picking up on this story, triggered by comments by (unsurprisingly) Peter Jones (here: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn%3Ali%3Aactivity%3A6795377460289552385/?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A%28activity%3A6794267881786896384%2C6795377440865746944%29), around the origins of the Design Council’s ‘double diamond’.
(NB Peter also comments on their new version, dubbed ‘The Systemic Design Framework’, here: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn%3Ali%3Aactivity%3A6795386355506561024/?commentUrn=urn%3Ali%3Acomment%3A%28activity%3A6794016102427963392%2C6795386297960710144%29)
I’m picking this up because it seems there’s no malice or ill-will or allegations around this (unlike other examples – see this stinging review of Wolfram’s work, recently posted here: https://stream.syscoi.com/2021/05/03/stephen-wolfram-a-new-kind-of-science-review-by-cosma-shalizi-2002/
And because intellectual history seems to be important to me, and I’m aware of how hard this can be!
Disclaimer: while I *constantly* work with the ideas of others – and try to credit them, always aware there’s a line between ‘their idea’, ‘my interpretation of their idea’, ‘my idea influenced by this and this’, and ‘my idea which is importantly distinct from this part of intellectual history, I do have one famous story where I was very much guilty, and realised how painful and difficult these situations can be: a client had asked us to develop a framework in a particular field, and loved an existing example from a collaborator/competitor of ours. This was duly fed in along with a literature review of over a hundred items, several collaborative workshops, an iterative framework… and one of the five or so key pieces that came out at the end… turned out to be an almost carbon copy of the original model. The pain was that I only realised this (and was able to apologise, give attribution etc) when it came to the attention of the originators in the the most embarrasing way possible… well, you live and learn.
This post simply opens up this discussion with an example of how many different people, all of whom seem to be acting in good faith as far as I can see, and none of whom deny at least an influence on the Double Diamond from Banathy, have many different angles on this, which on surface reading can paint the intellectual history very differently. (Sadly, Banathy passed away, so cannot comment directly on the issue).
So, I’ve explored the origins of the Design Council Double Diamond
(My main finding is that Design Council, whether adapting or creating Double Diamond, is annoyingly averse to THE definite article.)
The main claim – and you can see the link here – is that this comes from Bela H. Banathy’s – Designing Social Systems in a Changing World-Springer (1996) (part of the Contemporary Systems Thinking series, organised/edited/whatever by the University of Hull)
And here it is on p75:
Seems prima facie like a strong claim of relation, and maybe direct inspiration. I should say right away:
- that there appears to be no vitriol or dissembling around this; the level of credit given to Banathy varies but there are acknowledgements of inspiration at various times (which is why I feel it’s safe to step in and explore here without stirring up too much controversy)
- that this post is, in true Douglas Adams terms, kept within strictly maintained boundaries of excitement and uncertainty; it won’t trouble your pacemaker and is, in fact, Slightly Anticlimactic
So, what is said about this? In the rest of this piece, I cover:
- Wikipedia, which straight-out says the Double Diamond is ‘adapted from Banathy’ (without references)
- Some sources also say ‘adapted from’ or directly cite Banathy (Hambeukers)
- Some give a passing reference, amongst others and a much longer description of the process (Jonathan Ball)
- There was a mild disagreement on Twitter last year, over ‘based on’ or ‘amongst a number of sources’
- One well-informed and intellectually honest commentator (Cat Drew, deeply involved now but not amongst the creators) gives a good account but with no mentiond of Banathy
- Another piece from this year says ‘adapted from Banathy’ but then goes on to provide many broader inputs and comments on process
- Other potential sources are explored – Whirlpool and Gary Hamel, and the Stanford d.School process
- And some coverage which states ‘some sources are claiming direct connection, but there are many other sources’ – with a significant excursion into divergent and convergent thinking in general, and how systems and design ‘thinking’ relate
That’s all – don’t get too excited 🙂
1. Wikipedia has the Double Diamond ‘adapted from’ Banathy
(NB this was added to the Wikipedia page on 1 September 2019:
Double Diamond is the name of a design process model popularized by the British Design Council in 2005, and adapted from the divergence-convergence model proposed in 1996 by Hungarian-American linguist Béla H. Bánáthy
By Herbert Spencer, who seem very interesting: https://www.herbertspencer.net/ )
2. References to Banathy – Hambeukers
Dennis Hambeukers in referring to the 2019 ‘framework for innovation’ (https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/what-framework-innovation-design-councils-evolved-double-diamond) cites Bela Banathy here: https://medium.com/design-leadership-notebook/the-new-double-diamond-design-process-7c8f12d7945e
3. Passing reference – Jonathan Ball
This piece by Jonathan Ball https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/double-diamond-universally-accepted-depiction-design-process is undated, but it looks like it first appeared in August 2020: https://web.archive.org/web/20201001000000*/https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/double-diamond-universally-accepted-depiction-design-process
Is worth quoting at length (excerpts):
In 2003, Design Council was promoting the positive impact of adopting a strategic approach to design and the value of ‘design management’ as a practice. However, they had no standard way of describing the supporting process. Richard Eisermann, Design Council’s then Director of Design and Innovation, thought that this was incompatible with their broader message, so he asked his team, “How do we describe design process?”.
Of course, kite-shaped process models have been referenced as far back as the 60s, but models of design process were not widely shared at this point. Part of Design Council’s reason for creating the Double Diamond was to address this lack of visibility.
At the time, Richard Eisermann was new to his role at Design Council. In his words, he and his new team “took big steps to change the landscape for design in the UK.”
Moving from Whirlpool Europe to Design Council in 2003, Richard had inherited a multi-disciplinary Design and Innovation team from predecessor Clive Grinyer. The team comprised a mix of Design Council and independent design strategists, with a varied combination of backgrounds, expertise and experience. The group included Anna White, Chris Vanstone, Gill Wildman, Jennie Winhall and Jonathan Ball, all of whom were embedded in challenge-oriented project teams.
There were (and are) many ways to describe design process, and diamond-shaped models were not unfamiliar to Richard. He remembers the first time he was exposed to the concept, “Dave Duncanson, an engineer at IDEO, talked to me about the product development process as being like the classic diamond-shaped kite, with a tail composed of progressively smaller diamonds. So the double diamond shape was definitely already present at IDEO in the late 90s, although it may not have been called such”.
Richard’s next encounter with this diamond shape was at Whirlpool. “We did an extensive innovation programme with business guru Gary Hamel. Gary used the diamond as a way of framing innovation. He even called it the Double Diamond. But the names of the four steps were different.”
So the seeds of a diamond shape were already planted in Richard’s mind and he conveyed the idea to the team as part of their review and development process.
The team put in the work trying to define design, process, methods, etc. What we did with the Double Diamond was codify it, rename the steps and popularise it. It was important work, but we were certainly standing on the shoulders of giants.
These were the likes of Herbert Simon, Thomas Marcus, Thomas W. Maver, Bela H. Banathy, Barry Boehm, Paul Souza and Nigel Cross. From the 60s through to the 90s, their research had resulted in proposed models containing elements of divergence and convergence, cycles and iterative structures.
Over the course of several sessions, the group came up with a simplified way to describe any design and innovation process. It is based on four distinct phases that the team, deliberately seeking a memorable device, named Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver:
Chris and Anna worked with graphic design agency Cartlidge Levene to develop the graphic design and print representation of the Double Diamond and Methods Bank. Visual design company Matt & George then worked on a digital animation.
The people behind the Double Diamond
The Design and Innovation team were perfectly placed to take on this challenge. Originally handpicked by Clive Grinyer, they were smart, enthusiastic and had permission to experiment. The team’s diversity of interests, skills and experience proved to be invaluable. The team included, along with others:
Anna White, an ergonomist and product designer, had come from Ford Motor Company and subsequently went on to work with IDEO and LUMA. Anna is now Design Thinking Lead for Zeiss Group.
Chris Vanstone, a recently graduated product designer, worked as an independent strategist. He was one of the first people to realise the place and application of design in public sector services. Chris later joined Design Council’s pioneering Red Team, which used transformation design to influence policy. He now works with the Australian Centre for Social Innovation.
Gill Wildman’s background was in design strategy and innovation. First a design manager and then design strategist for Design Council, at the time she was involved with their science and technology accelerator programme – Humanising Technology – and exploring service design as a specialism. Gill has gone on to found her own business, Plot, to hold the position of joint design chair at Carnegie Mellon University and to work with companies such as Hyper Island and Upstarter.
Jennie Winhall, a Design Council strategist, was focusing on the place of design in social enterprise. She later joined the Red Team with Chris Vanstone. Jennie now works as a social innovator and service design consultant, advising organisations such as The Banff Centre, Rockwool Fonden, Innovation Unit and The Point People.
Jonathan Ball was a product designer by training who had worked across sectors. He has contributed to the development and delivery of many government-funded support programmes in the UK and overseas. Jonathan continues to work closely with Design Council, is an instructor for LUMA Institute, an associate of What Could Be and works with many other businesses and public sector organisations.
4. A mild disagreement over ‘based on’ or ‘a number of sources’ from twitter last year
This tweet says: Great to see our work colleagues and friends – Nick Durrant & Gill Wildman recognised for their involvement with others in codifying and communicating design as a process Double Diamond, 15 years on
And copies: @post_it_user @plotlondon @Prof_Haddock @City_ID @designcouncil
This tweet says:
As I recall there were a number of diagrammatic convergence divergence framings and sources knocking around the DC at the time. Gill Wildman was there with Jenny Winhall, Andrea Cooper, Chris Vanstone et al while they were compiling the methods bank ++
(In response to: @iotwatch
#til the famous design ‘Double Diamond’ is a take on the work of Béla H. Bánáthy who (amongst many things) helped create training programs for the scouts.
Alex, there was also this from Joyce Wycoff published around ‘95
5. Cat Drew writing on Medium does not include mention of Banathy, but does give significant other attribution
Any service designer will have heard of the ‘Double Diamond’. And probably many other designers will have too. It was created by a group of people at Design Council in the early noughties (led by Richard Eisermann, including Clive Grinyer, Jennie Winhall, Gill Wildman, Anna White, Chris Vanstone, Jonathan Ball, Andrea Siodmok and others!) as they were trying to understand how the design process works. Then, as now, many people think ‘design’ refers to objects, chairs, clothes. But these designers were using design as a problem-solving tool and wanted to make visible this process, and in particular the importance of spending time (and money!) on understanding the problem that the eventual design was trying to solve.
(Later in the piece:
Another challenge is that it is actually based on ‘creative problem-solving’ which has been around from the 1950s (originated by Osborn and Parnes) which argues for a process of multiple rounds of ‘deferral of judgement’ and divergent and convergent thinking. Which is why many people have added smaller and longer diamonds before and after (and within!). As Jonathan Ball explained to us it was built on what was going on before, of convergent and divergent thinking and of ‘kite-shaped’ models, and tried to give more visibility to them. For real design process geeks, here is a 150 page guide to many more models. http://www.dubberly.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/ddo_designprocess.pdf
“[Design Council] put in the work trying to define design, process, methods, etc. What we did with the Double Diamond was codify it, rename the steps and popularise it. It was important work, but we were certainly standing on the shoulders of giants.” Richard Eisermann
6. Credit given as ‘earlier version’ but includes multiple sources
This piece from 2021 https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Double_diamond_design_process says:
Double Diamond is a design process model developed in 2005 by the British Design Council. Using a double diamond diagram, the method breaks down the general design process into four specific phases – discover, define, develop and deliver.
It is a method for using design process visualisation in a graphical way. It was adapted from a model proposed in 1996 by the linguist Béla H Bánáthy. Bánáthy created an earlier version of the model (based on the same four phases) as a method for examining social systems design theory. His study, ‘Designing Social Systems in a Changing World’, introduced a diagram for a divergence-convergence model which would form the basis of the double diamond design process.
As a design process, double diamond emphasises problem analysis as the basis for creating a solution for the client. Its development was based on case studies gathered from the design departments at 11 global firms:
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- Whirlpool Corporation
[Elsewhere, Lego, Sony, Starbucks and Microsoft are specifically referenced, sometimes in different orders 😊]
7. Other potential sources – Whirlpool and Gary Hamel
For Whirlpool, the best I can find is two pieces from 2013, which clearly show two (then three) diamonds:
(and another reference from 2014: https://web.archive.org/web/20140424005048/https://strategos.com/whirlpools-commitment-innovation/ )
The Hamel model has proved frustratingly hard to track down so far.
8. Other reference – Stanford d.School process
There are a few references, of course, to the Stanford d.School process, e.g.
“The double diamond process can be considered a simplification of the Stanford d.School process. In addition, it can be perceived as adding a second dimension to the design thinking process, notably the amount of insights gained over time through divergent and convergent thinking.” in Diderich, C. (2020). Design Thinking for Strategy. Management for Professionals. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-25875-7
That is maybe passable but only with the second clause included, assuming this is the d.School process referred to:
(NB if you research this, and I hope you do, you may also find Michael Porter’s ‘diamond model of competitiveness’, and the proposed expansion of it into a double diamond model in 1993: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40228188?seq=1 I believe that this is not relevant; it neither describes the design process nor divergence and convergence).
9. ‘Some sources are claiming, but there are many other models’ – and an excursion into divergent and convergent thinking in general
This piece from April 2021 http://apppm.man.dtu.dk/index.php/The_Double_Diamond_Framework
The Double Diamond framework is derived from the Design Thinking concept. Some sources are claiming that its origins go back to the “Dynamics of Divergence and Convergence” model introduced in 1996 by Bela Banathy. However, the framework has the same underlying principles as many other design-related models such as Human-Centered Design, by IDEO, and the Design Thinking process. The framework is developed by the British Design Council back in 2004.
The IDEO and Design Council links don’t add as they’re modern, the link to Bela Banathy actually links to: https://medium.com/@albertozamarron (another interesting designer), who in this piece https://uxdesign.cc/iteration-and-divergence-convergence-are-not-alternative-approaches-dca44b780f4c gives this:
With the tag: Based on Joy Paul Guilford’s convergent and divergent thinking model (1967)
Before later saying:
The ubiquitous Design Council’s Double Diamond (2004) is the visual description of the design process that made popular among designers divergence and convergence. But the origin of the concept seems to be Bela Banathy’s “dynamics of divergence and convergence”, which appears in Designing Social Systems in a Changing World (1996).
Following up on Guilford we can see in http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/joy_paul_guilford
Joy Paul Guilford (March 7, 1897, Marquette, Nebraska – November 26, 1987, Los Angeles) was a United States psychologist, best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the distinction between convergent and divergent production.
According to Guilford’s Structure of Intellect (SI) theory (1955), an individual’s performance on intelligence tests can be traced back to the underlying mental abilities or factors of intelligence. SI theory comprises up to 150 different intellectual abilities organized along three dimensions—Operations, Content, and Products.
[amongst many distinctions:]
- Divergent production – The ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem; creativity.
- Convergent production – The ability to deduce a single solution to a problem; rule-following or problem-solving.
It is notable that Guildford is not referenced in the Banathy book, but a number of authors writing on creativity in the late-60s in terms of a focus on divergence are; they may well draw on Guilford, especially since this piece https://scholarlypublications.universiteitleiden.nl/access/item%3A2964925/view (lacking title pages) draws attention many other workers in this space, and to Guilford, J. P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill:
According to Guilford (1967), divergent and convergent thinking are two types of human response to a set problem. Guilford defined divergent or “synthetic thinking” as the ability to draw on ideas from across disciplines and fields of inquiry to reach a deeper understanding of the world and one’s place in it. He, thus, associated divergent thinking with creativity, appointing it with several characteristics:
1. fluency (the ability to produce a great number of ideas or problem solutions in a short period of time);
2. flexibility (the ability to simultaneously propose a variety of approaches to a specific problem);
3. originality (the ability to produce new, original ideas);
4. elaboration (the ability to systematize and organize the details of an idea in a head and carry it out).
Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions (Figure 1a) and typically occurs in a spontaneous, freeflowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn.
Convergent thinking is a term developed by Guilford as opposite to divergent thinking. This type of creativity is oriented towards deriving the single best (or correct) answer to a clearly defined question. It has a strong emphasis on speed, accuracy, logic, and focuses on accumulating information, recognizing the familiar, reapplying set techniques, and preserving the already known. It is based on familiarity with what is already known (i.e., knowledge) and is most effective in situations where a ready-made answer exists and needs simply to be recalled from stored information, or worked out from what is already known by applying conventional and logical search, recognition and decision-making strategies.
Convergent thinking is a style of thought that attempts to consider all available information and arrive at the single best possible answer (Figure 1b).
It’s really noteworthy to me that this concept of creativity seems to broadly assume a ‘flat’ problem space – i.e. searching amongst alternatives for solutions, which does not seem to give visibility to ‘reframing’ (seeing the situation in a different light/from a different perspective or worldview), to ‘affordance theory’ (using a thing created for one purpose, for another purpose), or other similar ‘outside the box’ recontextualising shifts like looking at different levels of recursion or abstraction. (We might look to TRIZ, which began in 1947, for some formalisation of this kind of thinking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIZ – which… is it divergent? It is certain creative in output! This, for me, might be a critical difference between the ‘surface view’ of design thinking and systems thinking; the former does not specifically name this possibility (though it’s not so much of a stretch to include this within ‘divergence’, and good designers really apply this – I will write something about design, in the traditional sense, as a form of systems thinking), whereas systems thinking explicitly goes after it (though that will be hard to see in some simplified, systems-dynamics type models, and is often lacking in systems thinking practice).
NB That Banathy, in distinguishing between problem-solving approaches and creative approaches (which I might slightly poetically say work in the former case in improving the current world, and in the latter case in bringing into being a different world), does not fall into this ‘flat’ model.