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The CREATE stage will help you contract external suppliers and understand the development process. It outlines how to identify existing solutions that can inspire your project, provides guidance on how ideas and insights generated through stakeholder engagement are processed and used to prototype potential solutions.


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Contract supplier

In this step we will cover:
Next steps

Now you’ve worked through the Identify, Plan and Reflect stages, you’re ready to start the development process.

Firstly, contract the suppliers you selected in the Procurement step of the Plan stage. Start by reviewing and updating together your design brief from the Brief step of the Plan stage; this is the basis of your contract.

Two people will develop the design brief:

  • A representative of the organisation commissioning the design work
  • A representative of the company carrying out the design work

The resulting agreement is an agreement between the parties, formed of a combination of your design brief and the supplier’s proposal document. Both parties are equally responsible for the outcome of the project.


When starting the development phase, make sure expectation are aligned between you and your supplier.

As project manager, you are responsible for the success of your project, so it is important that you understand what is behind each step and operation in your supplier’s delivery, as well as the support that you and your team need to provide.

You and your supplier must agree:

  • The success indicators and desired outcome
  • What is and isn’t included in the supplier’s quote
  • Internal resources and external suppliers are available when needed either to provide information, or take an active role in the process
  • Sign-off procedures and managing the dialogue and reporting between you: how often and in what format
  • Whether you need a ‘kick-off’ event, involving all parties, to make sure you all share a common understanding and enthusiasm for the project
  • Terms and conditions; including payment terms, intellectual property (IP/IPR) and data protection

Next steps

The next part of the design process is the development cycle, which can have any number of steps and iterations, depending on the scale and complexity of the project.

These are the most likely steps in the development cycle:

  • Research
  • Understanding users
  • Ideas and concepts
  • Prototyping
  • Testing
  • Refining
  • Evaluating
  • Sign-off

These are outlined in more detail in the Create and Test stages of Shape.

Usually, your design supplier will work through these steps, but you can contribute to the process, or carry out part of it (e.g. some research) internally to reduce cost. But remember, the supplier manages this part of the process.

It’s a good idea to follow your supplier’s development process and make sure they do not overlook any of the steps on the list unless there is a good reason for doing so.

The next action, if you’ve agreed on it, is to invite all relevant parties to a kick-off meeting to make sure that they are fully engaged and have a common understanding and enthusiasm for the project.


In this step we will cover:
Existing solutions
Stakeholder engagement


Research helps you to:

  • Understand existing solutions that are comparable to yours
  • Gain an insight into stakeholder behaviour

During this step, analyse whether you and your team, an external supplier, or a combination of both is best equipped to carry out the project research in a cost effective manner. For instance, you may already have a good overview of existing work, whereas your supplier may need more time to uncover the same information.

You should establish:

  • Who will research existing work
  • Who will research stakeholder behaviour
  • Whether it’s useful for the other party to support the researcher(s)
  • Whether the research is best carried out independently by one party

The decision will be heavily influenced by the scope of your project.

Existing solutions

It is important to find any solutions have already been developed in your field so that you:

  • Can learn from others’ mistakes
  • Don’t invest in a similar solution twice.

Your research should normally address the following questions:

  • What similar challenges and solutions already exist?
  • What significant research, surveys and reports already exist?
  • What is an acceptable time scale to solve the problem?
  • Are there sensitive issues among the stakeholder groups? E.g. would users be willing to pay for a new service?
  • What technologies are tried and tested for solving your problem?
  • Are there any specific considerations that need to be taken into account, such as data security, anonymity or discretion etc?

Your search for a solution should be as broad as possible, look beyond your sector, nationally and/or internationally and within private sector services if they are relevant.

Stakeholder engagement

Regular, structured involvement of relevant stakeholders is valuable to help you understand the challenge further and start discussing ways of addressing it.

Your stakeholders can be involved in different ways and to different degrees, it depends on their level of influence on the project, and how much they will be affected final solution. You can start by contacting people and organisations you wish to engage in the project to inform them it about and request that they reserve time to be part of the process. As project manager, you may have authority and connections that could be more successful in recruiting these stakeholders than an external supplier.

Based on your project’s scale and complexity you could try any combination of the following stakeholder engagement techniques:

Surveys and questionnaires
This is a useful quantitative method of gathering information and disclosing opportunities and barriers – but it has limited accuracy.

Focus groups and idea generation workshops (brainstorms)
These are valuable for engaging people in discussion and exchange of ideas, but they need to be well moderated to avoid opinions being expressed just to fit the occasion. There’s also an element of interpreting what wasn’t said.

One-on-one interviews
Providing the interviewees are from your chosen demographic/group and the interviews are held within a trusting, neutral atmosphere, one-on-one interviews can be very valuable. They are also a valid way of following up on surveys, questionnaires, focus groups or workshops.

Anthropological methods
This could involve asking individual stakeholders to keep a diary or actively documenting and engaging with them in their daily lives over a set timeframe.

This involves engaging stakeholders in the actual development process, from idea generation and development through to prototyping and testing. Co-creation works well in isolation, or combined with other methods.

Validation workshops
When scenarios or possible solutions start materialising (e.g. prototypes), stakeholders can be valuable judges of which direction to take or what needs to be improved.

Observation and advisory groups
These are for stakeholder groups who are not the primary demographic, but can contribute to the process in regular consultations. These groups can generate ownership and champions for the solution.

Disseminating Information
Although it’s less effective than direct involvement, a variety of communication initiatives can lower barriers to acceptance and uptake of a new solution.

All of these methods are valuable if they are applied to the right stakeholders at the right time. Since stakeholder engagement takes time and money, it’s important that you have a strategy for:

  • Who will be involved
  • How they will be involved
  • At what stage

You should have a full overview of your project stakeholders from your work in the Stakeholders step of the Identify stage.

Top tip
Depending on your project’s scale and budget, you can contract a supplier to carry out your project research.

Understanding Users


Analyse whether you or your supplier is best equipped to take the lead on:

  • Touchpoint analysis
  • User journeys
  • Developing personas

If you are creating or improving a product, the user may have a single touchpoint (or interaction).

If you are developing a building, environment or service, the user may have a sequence of touchpoints that are dependent on each other and need to be examined for potential problems and opportunities for improvement.

Designers often describe touchpoint-mapping as a user journey. This is a record – often visual – of the touchpoints and experiences in sequence, during which they consider elements such as:

  • Ergonomics
  • Materials
  • Lighting
  • Cleaning
  • Durability
  • Safety

User journeys

Mapping a journey results in a sequential list of touchpoints between your solution and a user from one of your stakeholder groups. Examples of how you can present the user journey include:

  • A storyboard sketch / rendering / drawing on a flip chart
  • A verbal description in a report, or using headings and bullet-points
  • An array of colour coded sticky notes on a wall
  • A cardboard model, either alone or as a supplement to the three outlined above

Your work from the Research step of the Create stage will help you develop user journeys that describe a stakeholder’s sequence of actions in your solution.

During this exercise you need to understand both the stakeholders’ and service providers’ journeys, and observe the similarities and differences.

It is often effective to look for common strengths/weaknesses in the journeys of average and extreme users.

The user maps will help your team decide on an initial creative approach based on how well the routes meet your brief and support your desired outcomes.

> Have a look at the case studies menu for a good example of user journeys.

Top Tip: Developing personas
A persona is a description of an imagined person and their characteristics.

You can develop one or more personas and map their journeys through your solution to identify problem areas. It is important to properly research an accurate cross section of real users and avoid stereotypes.

Example characteristics include:
– Name
– Age
– Gender
– Living situation
– Family situation
– Why they are using your service etc.

You can base this exercise on current or intended users if you are developing a new service.

It can also be helpful to develop personas for service providers and extreme users, for example:
– Wheelchair users
– Very young or very old users
– Visually impaired users
– People who are shorter/taller/heavier than average

Regular and first time users can also yield powerful and helpful results.

The personas can be used in different ways, such as:

  • Casting a role-play simulation of the service or environment
  • Measuring your observations and findings from the user journey analysis against the values, abilities and preferences you have attributed to your personas

For example; Imagine Howard, a 56 year-old college professor with arthritis who finds moving difficult and intuitively resists change. How would he respond to a specific feature of your solution? What can you learn from this?

Ideas and concepts

In this step we will cover:
Idea generation
Idea selection
Concept development

Analyse whether you or your supplier is best equipped to take the lead on:

  • Idea generation
  • Idea selection
  • Concept development
  • Will this be carried out independently or with support from the other party?

Idea generation

This is an important part of the process where the creative team is responsible for capturing, generating, assessing and developing ideas based on your research, user journeys and developed personas.

It is also a great opportunity to engage with users and other stakeholders – who are often happy to take part in idea generation workshops, if invited.

These people can include:

  • Public service users
  • Public sector product/service providers (or potential providers)
  • Community interest group representatives
  • Political party representatives
  • Labour union representatives
  • Non governmental organisation (NGO) representatives

The first phase of idea generation is about quantity – the more, the better. In this step, no ideas are too wild, bold, expensive or dangerous, even if they are only vaguely connected with the challenge. This is called ‘blue sky thinking’, where you can consider anything and everything to stimulate even more ideas.

Ground rules for idea generation:

  • All ideas are welcome, there are no stupid ideas
  • No-one is allowed to ‘shoot down’ ie block, criticise or be negative about ideas
  •  Building and elaborating on others’ ideas is encouraged
  • All ideas must be recorded (e.g. audio, video, a wall off sticky notes, a chart or list)
  • An independent facilitator increases the number and quality of ideas
  • Everyone is equal; there are no seniors or juniors whose ideas are more or less important

The second phase of idea generation is processing. This can be carried out immediately after the ‘blue sky thinking’ session with some or all of the people involved in it. Alternatively, the facilitator can sort the most interesting ideas from the workshop, and get the group together later for further analysis.

Some ideas will need more research to assess whether they are viable, while others need to be tested on experts, users or staff. In these situations, it’s a good idea to go back to the person who had the idea, as it’s possible they have more detailed information about it.

Idea selection

Choosing which ideas to proceed with is an important decision as it leads to a principal choice of direction, which is difficult to reverse once underway.

To make a qualified choice, highlight each ideas against a list of success criteria based on the success indicators you defined during the Objectives step of the Identify stage. Place a tick against each idea for each of the success criteria they meet, and then select three to five most successful ideas take forward to concept development.

Example: Complete and part solutions
When selecting ideas, you can choose complete or part-solutions.

For example, if your objective is to reduce waiting time at a local job centre, you can choose several part-solutions that work together, such as:

  • A digital solution,
  • An interior redesign
  • An appointment system

Or you could choose one complete solution that could cover multiple areas at once.

Concept development

The supplier will take your selected ideas and develop them into more detailed concepts.

Depending on how they are interpreted, concepts can take different forms. Each concept should demonstrate as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Key benefits being delivered
  • How they address the outcomes required in the brief
  • Forms and/or formats
  • A proposal of look and feel
  • How users will engage with the solution
  • How service providers will engage with the solution
  • Rough cost of implementation and maintenance
  • Lifetime of the solution
  • Potential weaknesses or unknowns that need further investigation


In this step we will cover:
How does prototyping work?
Methods of prototyping
Concept selection

Analyse whether you or your supplier is best equipped to take the lead on:

  • Prototyping
  • Concept selection
  • Will this be carried out independently, or with support from the other party?

You’ve chosen a principle approach to address your challenge and generated a number of ideas, some of which have been developed into coherent concepts. If you haven’t already, it’s time for you to choose which to develop into a prototype.

How does prototyping work?

Developing prototypes is the most efficient way to choose a solution, or identify improvements/changes to the concept being developed.

The aim of all prototyping methods is to learn more about or test something specific, or better understand the challenge or solution you are exploring. At this stage, do not be concerned about prototypes failing. A prototype is only a failure if you don’t learn something from it. The fact that it may not work – yet – but you know why – is a good success!

The aim of a more developed prototype is to test which solution delivers the most benefits and how effectively the solution matches your success criteria.

Methods of prototyping

A prototype is an early sample, model or release of a solution that is used for testing, comparing and providing specifications for a real, working system. You can prototype products, physical environments, digital experiences, print-work and services using a range of methods eg.

  • A product can be prototyped by making a single unit as a rough representation or as close as possible to final product’s look, feel and/or function. It can be made by hand or machine, but do not invest in manufacturing machinery, moulds and fittings. For example, a piece of print, display or signage can be printed to scale on your printer, folded, glued and made up.
  • A physical environment can be prototyped by a drawing that includes outlines of everything in it. It could also be recreated by taping outlines on the floor demonstrating where items will be placed. You can also build a full size or scale model of the environment in cardboard / appropriate modelling materials.
  • A service can be prototyped by role-play, or on paper, by description or sketches. Role-playing can be carried out in a prototype physical, or digital, environment based on whether the solution is physical or digital. It helps if you use your user journeys and personas to assess the prototype’s full potential using this method.

The basic principle of prototyping during the development process is to enable you to quickly assess a more tangible representation of your solution.

Example: How prototypes can result in improvements
By moving around in a prototype environment, you can assess the height of a counter or the passage size between two cubicles. By allowing users to test a prototype web-facility you can identify potential navigation or language difficulties, many of which can easily be resolved when identified early.

Concept selection

Choosing the concept is not a matter of personal preference. Your observations from the prototyping phase will allow you to analyse, recommend and/or argue the case for a concept. Your decision should be based on:

  • The list of success criteria based on your success indicators from the Objectives step of the Identify stage.
  • Input from relevant stakeholders

Make sure you document the process so that you can provide evidence and justification for your decisions.

Once you have selected and signed-off on the most appropriate concept, you can proceed to the Test stage of Shape. In the Trial step of the Test stage you will use more developed prototypes to test elements of the solution for more detail.

You should now revisit your project plan and budget to check whether you need adjustments to time and budget in order to test, validate and implement your chosen solution.

Case Study

Project Title

Designing Tax System Changes in Australia


Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

Design Suppliers

ATO Design Team

Launch Date


The Australian Tax Office (ATO) designs its products and services to contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of Australians by fostering willing participation in the tax and superannuation systems. The ATO applies an integrated tax design approach to develop tailored and contemporary services which are informed by a greater connection and understanding of the community, government and stakeholders, their needs and expectations. This is achieved through working with the government to design tax policy and undertaking consultation and co-design activities with the community and stakeholders as early as possible in the design process.

View all Case Studies and Tools
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