Our Approach

At Overlap, we understand all of our projects in the context of the Design Cycle. This conceptual framework helps us identify the goals at each stage of the work, determine the scope of the work and the activities involved, and understand how our contribution fits into a larger project. Understanding our work in this way helps us customize a set of activities at each phase of the Design Cycle that meet the project goals and scope. It allows us to manage the complexity and unpredictability that often comes along with a large, human-centred design project by outlining a high-level approach, and adapt to emerging insights and project needs.

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Activities across the Design Cycle


Defining Activities

We begin with a question and start to explore the problem space. We ask a lot of questions in defining and keep updating our understanding of the problem as we go. Possible activities for defining include:

  • Half-day problem mapping session
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Problem exploration and briefing


Research Activities

From interviews to ethnography, community engagement or secondary research, we talk to a lot of people that experience the problem. Possible activities for research include:

  • Interviews with stakeholders and subject matter experts
  • Stakeholder Labs that help surface insights from a group 
  • Secondary research as needed
  • Obstacles workshops to explore barriers and to get a better understanding of unmet needs
  • Analysis and synthesis of insights into a presentation, report, video, or website


Ideation Activities

From insights we create ideas. The best ideas happen when we do it together, so we'd recommend some ideation time with a wide range of stakeholders. We want to create a first set of ideas to be tested. That's the goal, make as many things as possible, test them out, and iterate, iterate, iterate! Possible activities for ideation include:

  • Half-day ideation session with stakeholders
  • Overlap in-house ideation among broader team
  • Idea briefs produced for testing


Prototyping Activities

After ideation, solutions are tested with stakeholders for feedback. Once we have feedback on initial ideas, we start to build them out into better prototypes depending on what we are trying to learn about the adoption or implementation of them. This is where our team of interdisciplinary designers shine–whether we're prototyping a service, interaction/experience, product, strategy, or app–we pick the right mix to build prototypes that can be tested further. Possible activities for prototyping include:

  • Overlap in-house prototyping depending on the idea being designed
  • Things like sketching, making, service blue-printing, writing, and/or visual design


Testing Activities

Similar to research activities but with a different goal, testing is about talking to people–but this time, instead of trying to discover more about the problem, we're sharing ideas and prototypes to get feedback. We test a few times throughout the process and draw conclusions about where to go next and how to improve prototypes through this dialogue. Possible activities for testing include:

  • Testing sessions with individual stakeholders 
  • Feedback gathering through interviews with stakeholders and subject matter experts
  • Feedback briefs produced for further iteration

Helpful resources


Interested in working with Overlap?

If your organization has a tough problem that you think Overlap can help you work through, let's chat! We'd love to connect with you and learn more about your challenges. Contact Alison today.