Sam has been using his "Design Diamond" for a few years now as part of his teaching*. It has never formally been written up or used for any purpose other than to convince first year design students of best practice. We thought it was about time we shared with the world - and you.
Simply stated the model aims to convince design students of the process of design. That without one of the four corners of the diamond then a design, the presentation and the idea my not be as clear, creative and well received as one with effort on all four. Put simply, the more research, the more generated ideas to be explored. Better and more ideas lead to better designs. And a beautifully crafted design without some theory behind it may be presented badly and may not answer the brief properly.
On the flip-side...
A great idea may be passed by if the presentation is weak - for example a poster idea is badly rendered. The less research you do the less ideas will fire, and no amount of craft will be able to convince anyone of a bad idea. Lastly without the theory behind the design, the designer will not have the context to express their idea to others - the Why.
Design here is used in its widest context. The diamond is a cyclical construct - Ideas beget research beget more ideas. There is no correct starting point, with all corners being underlined and checked by theory. In other words does your design "work" for the target audience?
Design and creativity is a process and it's hard work. The more effort that is put in at each stage, the better the results. Obvious? Sure. So obvious that no-one has done such a thing before? I suspect we simply have not found it yet. For us and our students a diagram like this often helps explain what is missing from the final result.
*Was tempted to write pedagogy.