At Fair Haven Innovates, we are makers.

We make for others.

This is our design process.

design process

We use our design process to create innovative solutions to our user’s tame or wicked problems.

Here are the simple rules for using our design process:


-Lead with Empathy
-Test your way to the best answer
-Learn something new when you fail
-Return to the appropriate design stage as needed, when needed


Our design process starts with Empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We lead with Empathy to understand and share the feelings of our users, customers, and clients.

There are four simple rules, that are best followed in order, to develop Empathy:

  1. Observe – View users and their behavior as they live their life.
  2. Engage – Prepare and Interview users.
  3. Immerse – Experience what your user experiences by putting yourself in users’ shoes.
  4. Unpack – Use an Empathy Map to reflect on the insights you’ve gained from the Empathy Stage.

Why Empathize?

The leaders in Design Thinking, the at Stanford, say:

As a designer you need to understand the people for whom you are designing. In order to design for your users, you must build empathy for who they are and what is important to them.

Observing what people do and how they interact with their environment gives you clues about what they think and feel. It also helps you to learn about what they need. By watching people you can capture physical manifestations of their experiences, what they do and say. This will allow you to interpret intangible meaning of those experiences in order to uncover insights. These insights will lead you to the innovative solutions.

Engaging with people directly reveals a tremendous amount about the way they think and the values they hold. Sometimes these thoughts and values are not obvious to the people who hold them. A deep engagement can surprise both the designer and the user by the unanticipated insights that are revealed. The stories that people tell and the things that people say they do—even if they are different from what they actually do—are strong indicators of their deeply held beliefs about the way the world is.

Good designs are built on a solid understanding of these kinds of beliefs and values. Engage to:

  • Uncover needs that people have which they may or may not be aware of
  • Guide innovation efforts
  • Identify the right users to design for
  • Discover the emotions that guide behaviors

In addition to speaking with and observing your users, you need to have personal experience in the design space yourself. Find (or create if necessary) experiences to immerse yourself to better understand the situation that your users are in, and for which you are designing.

In Fair Haven Innovates, we use Empathy Maps to unpack, reflect, and discuss the insights we’ve learned while observing, engaging, and walking in our users’ shoes. 

Lead with Empathy and return to this stage often. Empathy is the key to designing something that changes someone’s life. 


After Empathy, we move to the Define stage. In the Define stage, we will define our user and their challenge.

We define our challenge by creating a challenge statement. A challenge statement should explain, preferably in one descriptive and specific sentence, your user and their challenge. We must make a descriptive and specific challenge statement because it is the starting point for making an innovative solution for our user’s challenge. If we don’t get the challenge right, we can’t design the perfect solution. Your Empathy Map will be important in the define stage. Refer to it often.

As a Simple Rule, a challenge statement should:

  • Be specific and descriptive
  • Inspire your team
  • Capture the hearts and minds of people you meet
  • Fuel brainstorms by suggesting “how might we” statements
  • Be written in the format:


We write it as (Re)Define for a reason. You will need to revisit the Define stage when the Testing stage doesn’t solve a user’s challenge. If you don’t understand a user’s true challenge, you probably won’t come up with a solution that works for them.

Here are a few simple rules when visiting the (Re)Define stage:

  • Complete your Testing Grid
  • Have user feedback on your prototype and experiment
  • Use the Testing Grid and user feedback to decide if you found the true challenge
  • If you have to go back to the Empathy stage to get the challenge statement right, do it!


There are two phases to the Imagine stage. During the first phase, your job is to brainstorm a lot of ideas and diverse ideas to solve your user’s problems. Ideas change and grow as they develop so its important that you don’t throw out ideas in this stage.

Here are the Simple Rules we use when we have a brainstorming session:

  • Do not put down ideas. Instead, say “Yes, and…” and build on ideas.
  • Ask “How Might We…” questions with constraints to keep the ideas coming
  • Be visual
  • One conversation about one idea at a time
  • Stay on topic
  • Go beyond obvious solutions

Selecting Ideas

Your brainstorm should have generated many, diverse ideas to solve your user’s challenge. During the selection phase, its time to harvest solutions to grow into prototypes during the Make stage. But how do you know what ideas are worth growing into prototypes? Sometimes it’s easy and most of the team will agree on the 2-3 ideas to turn into prototypes. If so, Great! You have your ideas for the Make stage! Sometimes it’s hard to pick 2-3 ideas.

Here are the simple rules to help your team select possible solutions to build in the Make stage:

  • Use “I” statements such as “I think” “I feel” “I wish” “I wonder” and “What if…” statements when judging ideas
  • One conversation about one idea at a time
  • Place ideas onto the How? Now. Wow! Matrix
    • Vote: each team member gets three votes to spend on their three favorite ideas on the matrix
    • Compromise: support ideas you can “live with.”
    • If needed, eliminate, revote, and compromise until you have 2-3 ideas.
  • Carry 2-3 ideas, preferably one from each How? Now. Wow! Matrix area, forward to the Make stage.

Make for the First Time

Now that you have a few ideas on how to solve your user’s problem, it’s time to get the ideas off of paper and turn them into a prototype. Your prototype is the physical form of a solution for your user’s challenge. Machines, apps, games, pictures, videos, storyboards, etc. are all forms of prototypes.

If this is your first time building a prototype, keep the design and materials simple, make it fast, and keep it cheap because your first prototype will fail. Don’t worry! As long as you learn something from your prototype when you test it, it’s a successful failure. Successful failures are good.

You will come back and rebuild your prototype using the insights you discover in the Testing stage, so your goal is to get out of the Make stage and into the Test stage as quickly as possible.

Here are the Simple Rules to follow when making for the first time:

  • Only make the 2-3 ideas from the Imagine stage
  • Make even if you’re not sure yet
  • Prototypes are built to fail, so make them simply, quickly, and cheaply
  • Build with your user in mind
  • Build with the Test stage in mind

Make after Testing

After gaining new insights during a Testing phase, you will most likely return to the Make stage to improve your prototype.

Here are the Simple Rules for making after testing:

  • If your prototype was a total failure, revisit the right stage of our design process and move forward from there. If you don’t know the right stage, go to the Empathize stage.
  • If your prototype was a successful failure, rebuild your prototype with your new insights
  • Bring your prototype closer to a final product as simply, quickly, and cheaply as possible


Testing is an opportunity to get feedback on your solution and learn more about your user by engaging users with your prototype. The feedback and learning about your solution and user comes from observations, interviews, surveys, and experiments.

Here are the simple rules for testing with users:

  • Show, don’t tell
    • Put your prototype in users’ hands. Don’t explain everything (yet). Watch how they use (and misuse!) what you have given them, and how they handle and interact with it.
  • Create Experiences
    • Don’t explain your prototype. Test your prototypes in a way that feels like an experience that your user is reacting to.
  • Ask users to compare
    • Bringing multiple prototypes to test with users gives them a chance to compare them. Comparisons often reveal insights.
  • Observe, interview, and survey as many users as possible
  • Fill out a Test Reflection grid after testing

Designing an experiment

Often, you will need to design an experiment to know if your solution is working. This is especially true if you have many users that you can’t personally interact with. Designing an experiment to test a prototype is a lot like the Scientific Method.

Here are the simple rules for designing an experiment:

  • Design an experiment for one solution at a time
  • Turn your challenge statement into a hypothesis
  • Identify a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) – the key variable that will measure to know if your solution is working
  • Collect data that shows what the KPI was before the experiment
  • Collect data on the change in the KPI during the experiment
  • Interpret the data and feedback with your team
  • Decide to Persevere or Pivot:
    • Persevere: If your hypothesis was correct and KPI improved during testing, press on with the same prototype. Return to the Make stage and improve your prototype for retesting. 
    • Pivot: If your hypothesis was incorrect and KPI didn’t improved during testing, return to the Empathize stage and rethink your assumptions about your user, their challenge, and its solution. 


After you finish the design process by solving your user’s problem, it’s time to tell their story. Storytelling isn’t as hard as it might seem. Stories are simply a person in a place who has a problem. 

Here are the Simple Rules for storytelling:

  • Make your audience see themselves in your main character. Find shared experiences 
  • Make your audience root for your main character. Empathy Maps will help you paint your user’s story
  • Our design process makes a great story guide: use what you’ve learned during the design process to tell your user’s story
  • Inspire your audience and leave them with a call to action
  • Storyboard before filming

How to shoot video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. Planning ahead, but staying open to possibility will give you the best chance of making an awesome video. Know what you are trying to do and be aggressive about communicating it in the frame. If it’s not in the frame, it doesn’t exist.

Simple Rules for shooting video:

  • Video:
    • Shoot video close up
    • Be conscious of light sources & shadows on your subject
    • Follow the rule of thirds and frame off-center
    • Get more footage than you think you need
    • Longer takes make it easier to use transitions
  • Audio:
    • Keep the mic close to the subject
    • Point mic away from undesired noise

How to edit video

Editing can make or break a video: the story is supported or ruined by the way a video is sequenced, paced, & scored.

Simple Rules for editing video:

  • Shorter is better. Simple is best
  • Make rough cut of the whole story then go back and edit again
  • Avoid unnecessary animated transitions
  • Transition on words or actions, especially to edit out mistakes
  • Use voiceover and cut to action for longer scenes (a lot of other good tips here)
  • Music is powerful: use it wisely
  • White text with black outline can be read on any background