The Triple Diamond

Nora Guerrera
5 min readApr 9, 2024

What happens after the end of the Design Thinking Double Diamond?

Summary

  • Double Diamond Recap
  • Considering the Triple Diamond
  • Should there be a Quintuple Diamond?
  • Takeaways and Considerations

The Double Diamond

If you’re reading this newsletter, I’m sure you’re familiar with the design thinking double diamond. It is also occasionally referred to as the design strategy double diamond.

In the first half of the double diamond you explore or discover by looking very broadly. Then, you define or focus, narrowing to key insights and, ultimately, a point of view. Your point of view might be represented in a design brief, a problem or opportunity to solve, or a ‘How might we…’ question.

The second half of the diamond requires you to go broad again as you diverge to uncover possible solutions and ideas. You then explore, test, and refine them, converging to a proven concept or a winning solution as you close out your double diamond.

Here is one example of the process:

Reference: https://acumen.sg/double-diamond-design-thinking/

The double diamond has been used for years. Its origins can be traced to the mid-1990s or early 2000s, although precise attribution remains challenging. (If you’re interested in that, here’s a good post for you.) It’s paired with the practice of “design thinking”, and for some, they have become synonymous.

Recently, there has been some criticism of design thinking. (In fact, we have a post on it on Design Thinking for All titled The Future of Design Thinking) Most of the criticism isn’t about the double diamond approach itself but instead focuses on how it’s being used. Specifically:

  • The speed at which one works through the process. In some cases, teams utilize the double diamond process but complete all the steps in a five-day “sprint.” This begs the question, is one able to really learn enough and consider enough to get to well-rounded solutions in that amount of time? (Read more about the Sprint! process)
  • That the process is too narrow. Are we only focusing on our own problems/opportunities without any consideration of their impact on the world at large?
  • There isn’t a next step after the double diamond. If none of the great ideas or solutions ever became a reality, what was the point? And if this process creates things that can’t be implemented or aren’t feasible, nothing was accomplished.

The Triple Diamond

To address the last issue, meet the triple diamond:

Reference: https://medium.com/zendesk-creative-blog/the-zendesk-triple-diamond-process-fd857a11c179

If you’ve utilized design thinking processes, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time on “what comes next” following an engagement or an effort like this. The triple diamond attempts to account for this. The example above is from Zendesk and shows how they look at not only how they get to great, validated ideas but also how they deliver them, validate them, and roll them out to the market.

The third diamond is vital. There’s a lot of work that happens after the idea — even a tested and refined idea. Sometimes, it involves a hand-off to another team, or there’s a break where we try to get funding. Even with support, the execution part of the process sometimes regresses into business-as-usual or is dropped on an unsuspecting product design and development team.

Even if an idea makes it to a great product team, most product teams are set up to make incremental improvements or to iterate on their existing products and experiences. Are they prepared for something new?

The wide variety of possibilities is indicative of the larger issue; there seems to be a break, a drop from which new ideas and the effort to pursue them fall off. The triple diamond attempts to solve this by including this in the process.

What about the Quintuple Diamond?

If you’re feeling like the triple diamond isn’t enough for you, here’s one more consideration, the quintuple diamond:

Reference: 1977 Guide to Creative Action by Parnes, Sidney Jay, page 8: https://archive.org/details/guidetocreativea0000parn/page/n7/mode/2up

Published in 1977, Sidney Jay Parnes’ Guide to Creative Action explored five steps:

  1. Fact-finding: gathering and analyzing data in preparation for defining the problem
  2. Problem-finding: analyzing problematic areas in order to pick out and point up the problem to be attacked
  3. Idea-finding: idea production- thinking up, processing, and developing numerous possible leads to solutions
  4. Solution-funding: evaluating potential solutions against defined criteria.
  5. Acceptance-finding: adoption — developing a plan of action and implementing the chosen solution

(Credit to Erika Hall for bringing it into my feed.)

The quintuple diamond is very similar to both the double diamond and the triple diamond. It includes exploration, focusing, further exploration, and decision-making. I would argue that the triple diamond is stronger as it includes implementation versus limiting it to planning, but the quintuple diamond is a fun rabbit hole if you want to look at the history of this type of practice.

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Takeaways and Considerations

The intention of all of these diamonds is to create a repeatable process for:

  • broad-sweeping, open-minded exploration
  • focused narrowing, in which you say yes to some things but no to others
  • forward progression towards something real, inclusive of real needs, real users, and real feedback

As the triple diamond shows us, it must include the execution needed to make things real. After all, innovation and new value creation aren’t just about ideas; they’re also about getting them done.

Thought Starters

  • How do you use these methodologies in your practice?
  • What allows you to be most successful?
  • What prevents you from being successful?

Tell us more in the comments.

Updates:

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Design Thinking for All is a newsletter from Northome Group. Northome Group creates conversations and platforms for connection, conversation, and growth around design thinking and design strategies.

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Nora Guerrera

Strategist, Leader, Coach, Teacher. I help clients explore, create and use digital to bring game-changing experiences to their businesses and their customers.