The Mystery of the D1

What is a D1 and why is it important?

"Let's do a D1 and see."

You may hear the term "D1" ; it is pretty much a standard part of our vocabulary. We talk about creating D1s for all sorts of projects, products, apps and ideas– both for our customers and ourselves.

We're often asked to help companies take on big ideas. An executive has a new spin on an existing product or app. A founder needs help putting together the next steps for a new project. Our way of working with them is to engage in a D1:Define. It's the first "D" in our 5Ds process and it's short, typically lasting 2 weeks or less. Stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) attend a 1-2 day workshop where we use our D1 process to help us all understand the new idea. The goal is to break it down into simple digestible chunks of information, reshape it into a clear concise plan of action and then play it back as simply as possible. This process is crucial to creating a plan which works for everyone.

A D1 is not about invention, or problem solving– that typically can't be done in a few days. What we can do is help you and us to understand clearly the task at hand, and provide tools and guidance as to how to manage it.


In order for us to best understand the exact nature of a project, we typically work through an exercise we call WHAT, WHY, HOW. WHAT has several components. These structured conversations take many different paths. Here are some of the considerations discussed.


In as few sentences as possible, what is the product or service we're talking about? What is the business model around the product? What are the metrics for success? What are the main functions? What are the high level goals? Who are the customers? Who are the Stakeholders and who are the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and what is their experience? Note: Who is actually part of the What in this exercise. The output of WHAT are descriptive text.


Empirical evidence drives WHY. It's not about "hunches," but rather about what research says about the viability of the project as product, service or application. This data provides the basis for discussion and helps our clients and ourselves to best understand clearly the idea and how to communicate it later.

The output of WHY is typically charts and graphs.


Those of you familiar with PERT charts can understand the HOW part of this. A step-by-step process is reviewed on how best to move forward. We call this a Road Map and it also outlines resources, timescales and sets expectations for next phases of the 5Ds.

The output of HOW is typically tables, PERT or GANNT charts, and sometimes an infographic.

Data and Notes

During our workshop days, we carefully take lots of notes. Afterwards, we assemble the notes into a document and immediately share it with the client for verification. It's most important we are all on the exact same page. These notes will be used during the development of the final presentation.

The Customer Journey

One of the best tools we have for understanding new and existing ideas, is to map a path the customer takes: from when they first hear about the product; through the information gathering and decision making about the product and; the onboarding and first time use of the product; the everday use of the product including support and; ending up with an understanding how existing users can help extend the business model for the product.

We break up into small teams to workshop each of these stages. While we certainly don't plan on a full customer journey analysis, we do find it helps everyone better understand the product and gives us all insight into ways to make it better.

The Cognitive Visualization Part

We've said a lot about Cognitive Visualization in our story about it. Suffice to say, this is the part where we take all of what we've learned, and add some design magic, and create a visualization of the product or service concept. It is not any sort of final design, but rather an agreed upon approach to best communicating to all involved what it is we are striving to do. It is a big part of the Design Thinking process to have hero visuals at the very beginning. The visualization can take many forms: renderings of a product in use, software interface design playable on a smartphone, virtual reality spatial experience, and even infographics explaing complex systems.

The D1 Presentation

The finish of the D1 is the final presentation. It contains a concise breakdown of the project, along with clear descriptions and ideagrams of the WHAT and WHY. The HOW and WHEN are outlined in the Road Map and the Cognitive Visualization is included in the final presentation. Ask our team to schedule a conference and we can show you examples.