Design Thinking Process

Discovery Recaps

Discovery Recaps

At Handsome, we start our projects with a Discovery phase. When prospective clients hear the word “Discovery” they regularly get defensive, “We’re not interested in paying for your team to spend 3 weeks creating a PowerPoint presentation telling us what we already know.” Sadly, this skepticism and reluctance is often warranted, as many companies are burned by projects where acts and artifacts from discovery either lacked rigor or appropriate explanation.

Despite the bad rap associated with the words “discovery phase,” the reason we continue to use them to describe the first step in our approach is because we can’t think of better words to communicate approaching a problem space with curiosity, passion and wonder. The value of a designer lies in her ability to, as Genevieve Bell would say, “make by making strange.” More plainly put, design starts with listening, observing and questioning. Design starts with, witnessing the strangeness of human behavior as we relate to each other and the things around us, in order to spot opportunities for novel and inspiring solutions.


At Handsome the following acts encompass a typical discovery phase:

  1. Introspection: What do users really want and need?
  2. Goal Setting: What does success look like?
  3. Establishing Team Expectations: What can we expect from this experience and each other?
  4. Synthesis: Explicitly dedicating time to rigorously analyze what we witnessed.
  5. Sketching & Modeling: Understanding through making lo-fi prototypes and modeling systems.
  6. Dialogue: A back-and-forth conversation around what are we hearing, seeing, thinking?
  7. Planning: Given what we’ve learned, what are the next steps?

These are all vital steps whether you are updating an existing product, or creating something novel from scratch.

If you would like to learn more about our Discovery process and perhaps see a few examples of Discovery Recaps, please get in touch.

Bell, Genevieve, Mark Blythe, and Phoebe Sengers. “Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies.” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 12.2 (2005): 149-173.

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