3D Design Methodology

It’s no secret that we have challenges in the world of education. It’s not for lack of trying —we work hard and put in long hours trying to revise and improve upon what we do — but we struggle to find new answers that really make a difference. Often, our efforts focus on reform — we think about the needs of the system, and make a few tweaks to a model that is still fundamentally the same. But, as Einstein said, “We can’t solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So how do we move from reformation to transformation, where we consider new alternatives that haven’t existed before? 

Design thinking utilizing Spring Lake Park’s 3D Design process is one approach that can help us get at those innovative solutions. Through three distinct yet overlapping spaces, 3D Design leverages a focus on the needs and wants of those we’re designing for, an avenue for generating transformative ideas, and a system for putting those ideas into practice. Throughout each space, a dedicated focus on achieving desired outcomes leads us closer to the innovative solutions we strive for as a district.

Read below for more information about each space of the 3D Design Process: Discover, Design, and Deliver and be sure to watch our 3D Design video. Download a PDF version of the 3D Design image here.

First page of the PDF file: 3DDesignfinal


Through the Discover Space, we seek inspiration for new opportunities. We strive to deeply understand our challenge, and gain insight into the customers we’re designing for. These insights help define exactly which problem we’re trying to solve. 

The Discover Space is comprised of two distinct elements; Inspiration and Insight. Inspiration is all around us in both the novel and familiar, and taking in everything with intention helps foster the designer in us all. Whether it be a nagging problem, an emerging influence, or a lesson that just doesn’t meet the needs of our students, seeing everything as a potential opportunity for improvement is a key to inspiration. Designers don’t let these opportunities pass them by; each challenge we encounter is a chance to design in disguise. After framing the opportunity comes the critical process of gaining insights about the challenge itself and the people we’re designing for. We identify our ultimate customer, and take a walk in their shoes. We take a human-centered approach that never forgets our solutions are meant for real people. We remain open and curious in order to see things that may not have been apparent to us before. In the end, we end up with valuable information, and synthesizing these insights helps identify exactly which problem needs solving.


Within the Design Space, we take everything learned through the Discover Space and use it to generate as many ideas as possible. The best ideas are turned into prototypes, feedback is gathered, and ultimately a decision is made about which option to try. 

The Design Space is compromised of two complementary processes; Ideate and Prototype. They work together to maximize opportunities and help us generate creative solutions. All of the insights gathered during discovery about the process and our customer serve as springboards for creating meaningful change. This space begins with ideation and resisting the urge to say no too soon. Designers brainstorm without judgment, getting down as many ideas as possible from the practical to the seemingly silly. It’s often an exercise in going outside our comfort zone and seeing beyond the obvious. You never know what might spark a new avenue to explore. After generating ideas, we select the top options to prototype. Prototypes act as a first draft that leads to further iterations. They give us a chance to look for gaps or problems in our initial designs. We remain open to failure, and use it as an opportunity to refine. After working through our top prototypes, we ultimately choose one to put into practice.


Now is our chance to bring our design to life. The Deliver Space helps us put our solutions into practice, learn from the results, and make any adjustments we need.

The Deliver Space is focused on implementation and action, and is comprised of two critical stages; Implement and Refine. We adhere to a “Do Something” attitude and recognize that we’ll never know if something will work until we try. Therefore we make plans for implementation and ensure they get put into place. As designers implement, we pay close attention to what we notice and learn. Is our design effective? Did it solve our problem? Are refinements needed? It’s never too late to make adjustments. 3D Design is ongoing and nonlinear, and might circle back at any point.

SLP 3D Design Playbook

Our SLP 3D Design Playbook was created to support the implementation of our 3D design methodology any time, any place. We have two versions of our playbook - The Essential Playbook highlights our most critical methods, and works great for any design opportunities that might have a shorter timeframe or a smaller scope. Our Everything Playbook includes methods from the Essential Playbook as well as several additional methods that might support a design opportunity with a longer timeframe or a larger scope. 

Download the Playbooks below: