DwB utilizes Human Centred Design (HCD), a problem solving approach used to create products, services, and systems that involve the human perspective in all steps of the design process. The HCD process, methods and tools are well suited to provide a holistic systems approach for understanding problems. This approach allows us to work more collaboratively with various stakeholders, and to design with – not for – the target audience. With this method, we are better able to develop meaningful and effective solutions. HCD emphasises a deep contextual understanding as a critical aspect of finding the right solutions. Therefore, DwB is working to train more Africans to leverage this approach in addressing challenges on the continent.

Iterative Design.

This process is iterative in nature with a cyclic process involving prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining through a series of loops in order to arrive at the more optimal solution. Changes and refinements are made based on test results from the latest iteration of a design. This process is rapid and intended to ultimately improve the quality and functionality of a design. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented.

The following describes in general terms the main phases of a typical design process and some of the activities that we carry out in order to achieve the project goals. A Design brief and more specific project plan is usually developed jointly by the client and Design without Borders.

01 Research.

To understand project context, key challenges and needs.

During this phase, we go through a systematic process for determining and defining the needs, or identifying the “gaps” specifically between current conditions and desired conditions or ‘wants’. The discrepancy between the current condition and wanted condition must be measured to appropriately identify the gap. This phase consists of product, market and user research, interviews, shadowing, cultural probing, product tests, and mapping of key findings. All the tools that we use are specifically designed to engage with the different stakeholders, to gather valuable information about their needs, views, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of people, groups in the community and wider society dynamics that will inform the development of appropriate solutions.

02 Ideation.

This phase will consist of developing a design criteria based on the research findings and using this criteria to develop early solution sketches of ideas that are meant to solve the key issues and fulfill project objectives. One or more ideas will be chosen for further development depending on the nature of the project.


Concept development is conducted based on selection and preliminary detailing of the chosen ideas. This phase will consist of evaluating the numerous ideas based on the design criteria. Some ideas are discarded, or combined which ends in a number of working concepts ready to be developed further.

04 Prototyping.

At this stage, we build tangible mockups or relevant representations using multi media of the selected concepts. narrow down the concepts down to one product design and do prototyping, testing and further development of the product design.

05 Testing.

In this phase we share the prototypes and iteratively improve and refine them through rigorous testing with the target audience to ensure the final solution has been effectively validated. With each refinement, the fidelity of the solution is increased. Once the testing has been satisfactorily exhausted, we then begin the product detailing and production planning. All the project documentation will be gathered and presented together with a functional prototype.


During this phase, DwB provides all the relevant documentation to the client to assist with implementation of the solution. This includes technical drawings, 3D CAD models, visualisations, client journey maps etc. that encompass all the relevant details for execution of the solution. During this stage DwB supports the process by working collaboratively with the client and their chosen production or implementation partner.