The design process is a critical tool of SFUSD’s iLab and an alternative way of tackling the challenges we face at every level of our organization. It is a human centered process that cultivates understanding and relational trust between designers and users and creates innovative solutions to persistent challenges as well as those we anticipate.  Participants build empathy with those for whom we are designing, and the creative confidence and skills needed to solve the challenges facing us in schools, departments, and across our district.

3D Process

1 // Discover

The Discover phase of the process invites participants to “walk in the shoes” of the users for whom they are designing through activities such as interviews and observations so they understand the challenge from the user’s perspective.  This phase also encourages participants to learn more about ways similar challenges are solved and find inspiration from inside and outside the education field. Discovery activities are designed to build empathy among team members and for their end-users. These activities teach participants to use ethnographic research, make unbiased observations, and translate their insights into a deeper understanding of the problem, its root causes, and the possibilities.

2 // Define

The Define phase of the process translates insights gathered from the field research to define and make meaning of the problem of practice, or design challenge, and convert it into a “How might we?” question that they can truly design and test. Participants deepen their empathy for the end-users as they make explicit who they are designing for.  Grounded in empathy, participants clarify the design constraints (what cannot move at this time) and principles or “must haves,” and finally brainstorm a set of potential design features that prepare them to craft a new solution.

3 // Do

The Do phase of the process takes the clarified user persona and “How might we?” question and asks teams to “work in a different way” by brainstorming, bodystorming and prototyping solutions. Building skill to get critical feedback and then iterating solutions through prototypes builds the ability to take risks and fail and the creative confidence grounded in empathy to craft a prototype that is ready for implementation. Participants will repeat this cycle over and over again until they have sufficient feedback to take their design to implementation.  This iterative process does not end in the design room, but continues to inform redesigns not only of the prototype but also of the systems around it for the innovation to succeed.