Crafting the Ideal Discovery Process for Critical Designs

Dan Brown · Monday, October 31 · 8:30am – 5:30pm · in Pacific D

The first moments of any project set its tone. The teams that craft those first moments well reap the rewards: everyone is aligned from the start and disagreements about direction are ironed out early.

Align your entire team to effectively articulate problem statements and design principles. Influence better designs by establishing a shared understanding of the customer, constraints, and desired outcomes.

Craft a discovery process that produces data you’ll use to clearly identify and articulate problems. Set a clear vision and plan for your most complex design projects.

Nobody understands what truly makes a successful design process as well as Dan does.

The Day’s Agenda


The what, how, and why of Design Discovery

  • Establish a definition of Discovery and see why it’s essential to your project’s success.
  • Cultivate the right mindset for discovery work to make meaningful and relevant design decisions.
  • Brainstorm the physical artifacts and outputs related to discovery, including card sorts.

Frame the design problem and set direction

  • Move beyond basic project requirements to guide your design vision.
  • Define the problem space by outlining challenges, opportunities, and desired outcomes.
  • Take advantage of design principles, narrative models, and scenarios to get your team aligned on the design direction.


Guide decisions with an Activity Matrix

  • Dive deeply into the most important Discovery activities with a 2x2 activity matrix.
  • Outline the four types of design activities: gathering, processing, exploring, and focusing.
  • Use divergent and convergent approaches to set a plan for executing the design.

Draft a Discovery project plan

  • Get your team onboard at the start of your project with a simple plan.
  • Integrate and dedicate time to a process of continuous learning.
  • Evolve your team’s approach by injecting the Discovery and Apprentice mindset into the process.

Jumpstart Your Design Projects With An Effective Discovery Process

A process to understand wicked problems

Before the team can identify innovative solutions, they need to truly understand the problems they’re solving. The discovery process—gathering information, processing information, exploring ideas, and focusing on a plan—will get your team ready.

Establish a shared product vision across your team

Designs often fail when there is a lack of team alignment and participation. An intentional discovery process sets a collaborative, exploratory tone for the rest of the project.

An evidence-based approach to product design

Integrating a hypothesis-driven approach, instead of opinion-based, changes how the team approaches every decision. Choose features and solve user problems based on evidence gathered throughout the discovery process.

You’ll see how to:

  • Gather data through stakeholder interviews and user research
  • Frame the design with problem statements and project objectives
  • Process findings with narratives and scenarios
  • Explore opportunities through collaborative sketching
  • Focus your insights and ideas with a solid project plan

Achieve a shared team understanding to inform your design decisions

Learn a proven framework for framing your organization’s design strategy

When dealing with large-scale applications and a large audience base, it’s common to get lost in a project’s overwhelming complexity. By prioritizing the right activities at the start of your design projects, your team is guaranteed to succeed.

Rethink how your team approaches design projects

Open the team up to a hypothesis-driven to product design, where ideas are gathered through evidence collection, and tested for viability before a plan is put into place. Move from being reactive in the marketplace to defining proactive product solutions.

Avoid designing in a vacuum

While design teams frequently rely on Design Sprints and Lean UX techniques to deliver quickly, it’s just the starting point. The Discovery framework gives your team the clear direction and collective knowledge to solve well-articulated problems.

Use a team-oriented process to produce actionable results

Cross-disciplinary teams bring viewpoints and perspectives that go beyond individuals. By engaging everyone in the discovery process at the beginning, they can see the vision and how to achieve it.

Grow your toolkit of Discovery activities

The day will be balanced between gleaning Dan’s wisdom and trying it on your own with interactive, fun activities. And lots of discussion to get your questions answered and hear what’s worked for others.

Dan Brown

Photo of Dan Brown

Here’s what Jared says about why he chose Dan for UI21…

When companies need to ensure their design process will handle the big challenges, they call on Dan Brown. Through his work at EightShapes, he’s become a leading expert on how teams can repeatedly produce delightfully fantastic products.

His knowledge about creating great designs is extensive. He surveyed the techniques of documenting design in his book, Communicating Design. His next book, Designing Together dove deep into how teams collaborate (and often fail to). We’re very much looking forward to his new book Practical Design Discovery, which is based on this very workshop.

His recent work breaking down project discovery is groundbreaking. He’s stepped back from formulaic approaches to create a foundational understanding of what happens in successful and unsuccessful projects. Building on this, he guides designers to know how to ensure success in their own projects. If success is an important outcome for your projects, you’ll want to spend the day with Dan in this workshop.

On Tuesday, Dan will give a featured talk, Collaborative Design Discovery: Four Essential Techniques.

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