A design process must not be a straight-jacket on creativity. On the other hand, creativity in design needs to have some form of validation; otherwise it reduces its own ability to create new opportunities.
This simple cycle is inclusive of multiple design tactics but is rigorous in how it judges the results of any design. The designer/s can enter into the cycle at any point.
If you have a great idea, start by making it.
If you need to define a problem, start by thinking and analysis.
If you already have a product or service, try critiquing it.
The most important next step is to go to the next point in the cycle.
In the design industry, many designers / product owners only go through this cycle once and then bounce between “making” and “critiquing.” This can easily turn in to a vicious cycle of iterating on tactical designs that do not really address the problem. Often, in this “bounce” the process lacks acritical piece of thinking or analysis which might unlock the true nature of the problem.
At every point of the design process it is critical to reconsider, or query, the problem, checking in to see that you are designing for the right problem.
Following the cycle is not easy. It requires you to question opinions you have formed in the course of a project which can be hard to let go of. These opinions or decisions may have been hard fought victories with other project team members / clients and seem irreversible; but nothing is irreversible if the problem itself has changed through your considered process of thinking and analysis.
This process happens at every stage of a project from concept to production and brings fresh insight to every step.