Synthesizing Co-design Outcomes

Activity for Ideas And Outcomes


Synthesis is the process of transforming the outcomes of a group design activity into a cohesive format, and sharing them in a way that’s easy to understand and useful to the design process.

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Synthesis helps you:

  • Create a shared understanding of what you learned from the co-design session
  • Communicate it to those who weren’t involved in the session themselves
  • Communicate it in a way that’s helpful to the next phase of your project

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It is best if all the facilitators who were present at the co-design session are involved in the synthesis process. If that’s not possible, try to have them share their findings and observations with you beforehand.

It is also good to invite co-design participants to synthesize with you. The act of synthesis requires interpretation of the findings and will be influenced by the perspectives of those doing the synthesis. To ensure that your synthesis is informed by the perspectives of the community you are working with it is important to include them in the process.

Read more in Co-designing Synthesis.

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Synthesis can happen:

  • after a single co-design session
  • after completing a series of related co-design sessions with the same learning goal
  • whenever you’re moving from one design phase to the next (from discovery to brainstorming, or brainstorming to refinement).

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Share your findings

  • Get as many co-design attendees together as possible and have them go through their notes and share what they learned.
  • As a group, review the materials that were generated during the co-design session (sketches, feature lists, etc). You can put these up on a wall, or in a shared folder.
  • You might have one person write down all the findings of the group and post them somewhere where everyone can access them (for example on a wall or an online board). Alternatively, each person can record their own findings and post them.

Begin to make sense of your findings

  • Start by grouping your findings according to common themes, or in another way that is meaningful to your project. This can help you begin to identify key points and any emerging patterns or relationships.
  • Give each grouping a name that best describes the content. This helps to identify and communicate your themes.

Present your findings

Now that everyone in your group has a sense of what came out of the session, it’s time to figure out how best to present your findings.

Here are a few examples of methods or activities that have been used by others:

Themes and insights

What is it

Themes and insights are ways of pulling a lot of different information together to create more generalized statements. Themes combine a lot of scattered findings and create meaningful groupings from them. Insights try to explain the underlying motivations and beliefs of your co-designers based on the findings.

When is it useful

The themes and insights method is useful when you are in the discovery phase of your project. It works well when you have done co-design on a broad topic, and you are not ready to use more structured or prescriptive frameworks yet (eg. journey mapping, which fits findings into a linear timeline).

How to do it

Design Kit

TiSDD Method: Developing key insights

Journey mapping

What is it

Journey maps are similar to a timeline - they map out different aspects of a linear experience. This experience can be something that is:

  • Currently happening (eg. what is the current experience of getting onto disability benefits?)
  • What you want to happen in the future (eg. what would the ideal experience of getting onto disability benefits be?)

The base layer of a journey map describes the action of what is happening at each step of the experience. You can add “layers” onto a journey map, like layers of a cake. For example - at each step of the experience, you can also describe:

  • What you are thinking
  • What you are feeling
  • What you find challenging
  • What seems like an opportunity

When is it useful

A journey map is most useful when you’re trying to describe an experience with a beginning, middle, and end. For example: Using public transportation to go to work, or applying for a job.

How to do it

Design Kit

TiSDD Method: Mapping journeys

Jobs to be done

What is it

This method encourages participants to take the point of view that people “hire” an object, web app, program, or a service to help them get to their desired outcome.

Jobs to be done is framed as:

  • When I’m in (situation), I want to do (action), so that I can achieve (desired outcome).
  • Example: When I am commuting to work, I want to drink a smoothie, so that I can be full when I get to work without spending extra time on breakfast.

In this example, the smoothie was “hired” to be a quick and efficient breakfast.

It helps to move the focus from the designed object, program, or service itself to what it ultimately helps users to do, from their own perspective.

When is it useful

Jobs to be done is a useful framework to use when you want to focus on the desired outcome of the designed object, web app, program, or service. It can also be a useful brainstorming prompt, as it opens up space for the generation of many different ideas that achieve the same desired outcome.

How to do it

What is Jobs to be Done (JTBD)?

TiSDD Method: Generating jobs-to-be-done

Design principles

What is it

Design principles are guidelines that will help your team design the specific object, web app, program, or service. They are not generalized design principles like “keep it simple”, but rather they are specific to your project.

For example, during a project where we were co-designing digital tools for childcare providers, we learned that childcare providers are very busy people who have to navigate many bureaucratic deadlines for many different children. A design principle for this tool could be “if you don’t remind me, I’ll forget”.

This might then be translated directly into a general reminder feature in the tool, or may provide input into creating reminders for other features of the tool such as administration, attendance, etc.

When is it useful

The design principles approach is most useful as you are heading into the brainstorming phase, after understanding the needs of your community. Design principles will help you translate different types of information and insights into actionable design features.

How to do it

5 Tips for Writing Good Design Principles

Feedback prioritization sheet

What is it

A feedback prioritization sheet is a list or a spreadsheet that takes changes to be made to the design (informed by user feedback) and ranks them according to priority. Priority can be determined by many things, most commonly:

  • Value: How valuable would this change be to users?
  • Effort: How much effort and time does it take to make this change?

For example, you might have a change that’s very valuable to the user, and easy to do - those are “quick wins”, and are often prioritized first.

You may also have a change that’s somewhat valuable, and would take a lot of effort to do. This may not be the change you’d prioritize first.

When is it useful

A feedback prioritization sheet is useful when you’re trying to sort through a lot of feedback and determine what to address first. It can also be helpful when you need to limit your scope.

How to do it

  1. Add the changes you want to make. You may choose to include exact feedback from users, or do some grouping of common feedback first.

  2. Add in supporting information. This can include:

    • Notes to explain why someone is requesting this specific change
    • What aspect of the design the change applies to (eg. a specific page on a site, a specific point in the process of accessing a service, etc)
    • What type of change it is (eg. new feature, usability, language, etc)
  3. Decide how to prioritize your changes. This can include value, effort, or something else. Make sure your team agrees on these things. Put each of these factors in its own column.

  4. Prioritize together with your team. Go through all of the feedback and changes, and prioritize them together. By the end of this process you should have a list of feedback and changes, prioritized and ready for your team to implement.

Here’s an example of a prioritization sheet used in a previous project:

Airtable | Everyone’s app platform

How do I decide what framework to use?

You might decide how you want to communicate your findings based on:

  • The types of outcomes you have (eg. focus on a particular process, or feedback on a design), or
  • What the next phase of your project is.


Scenario 1:

  • Ideas and outcomes: Interviews asking people about the process of going to a food bank
  • Next phase of your project: Brainstorming
  • Framework: Journey maps that maps out the process of going to a food bank, with extra “layers” of information about what people find easy or painful about the process. This method works well with the information you already have, and it will serve as a reference to people brainstorming about specific points in the process that can be improved.

Scenario 2:

  • Ideas and outcomes: Feedback on how usable your latest prototype is
  • Next phase of your project: Refinement
  • Framework: Feedback prioritization worksheet. This method will help you make a list of all your feedback, and rank it in order of what’s most important to address first.

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