From off course, to of course!
Committing to the design process

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Design processes and frameworks, like the UK Design Council's double diamond, are helpful tools to provide reassurance and visually communicate a sense of predictability. For clients commissioning design, describing a robust, repeatable process can help make an often uncertain, complex and ambiguous endeavour more understandable and approachable.

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Although the double diamond gives a sense of structure and predictability, the actual project experience can be more fluid.

The truth is that a design project doesn't always feel like a process. As you progress through project stages and deal with new information and circumstances, your understanding evolves, and things often change as a result.

Sometimes it feels like you go two steps back and a few to the side, before you make a leap forward. Sometimes it feels like you're coming back to the basics again and again.

Sometimes you discover something in research that fundamentally shifts your thinking about what the problem actually is and where the solution might lie.

Sometimes developers share one little decision they've made about how they've built the solution which will fundamentally impact the user experience.

My point is that despite everyone's best efforts and intentions, relative chaos, in one form or another, often ensues. It’s not that the process is broken, it’s just that the map is not the territory. This unpredictability means that orderly visualisations of the design process lose their value when the perception and experience of doing a design project are all too different.

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In 2015 I came across the Design Squiggle and instantly connected with the idea. Not only does it acknowledge the realities of a design project, it's a great metaphor for life too.

The reality is that progress through the process often feels like the design squiggle. When you're dealing with complexity and you don't know what you don't know, somehow a squiggly line makes more sense.

To anyone feeling confused, anxious or ambivalent about the design process – the design squiggle offers some solace. Here at Folk, the design squiggle has become a useful visual metaphor for how explaining the design process feels. Design – when done properly – tackles complexity, uncertainty and seemingly chaotic areas of inquiry to get to clarity. In parts that feels less like a double diamond and more like a squiggly line.

It may just be a squiggly line to you, but to me it’s more.

In 2016, I had the design squiggle tattooed on the underside of my forearm. I did it for many reasons, most of all because I truly believe in the power of design to make the world a better place. For me, the design squiggle is a reminder that a lot of what happens in life and work is a matter of perception and attitude.

Projects can often feel hectic, chaotic and seemingly off-track, but when you zoom out and see the bigger picture, they're good problems to have. Although the design process might feel challenging at times, you've just got to keep working through the complexity because things do work out in the end. It's about persevering and collaboratively creating a way through.

I see the design squiggle as a reminder about how I can use design to create 'order' out of 'chaos', it's about how design has the potential to solve real problems and create better solutions. If design is going to have greater value to society and the planet – beyond pretty pixels – it needs to help solve the hard stuff – ’wicked’ problems.


The design process can feel chaotic and uncertain at times, and that's ok.

Remember the design squiggle.

Trust the process.

Choose to see challenges as an opportunity.

It may not feel this simple, but it's not supposed to be either.

The value design delivers is being able to understand difficult problems and work with different people to create better solutions.

The more design is equipped to work with the 'chaos', the more value it will be able to deliver.

If you’re interested in reading more about the design squiggle, and the story of the squiggle, you can find more information here.

Written by:
Tim Alexander,
Lead Product Designer