The Benefits of Pair Design in Your UX Design Process

The Design process is collaborative by nature. This can be through designers working together or with other disciplines such as developers, marketing teams, content strategists, etc. Pair Design is a method that results in better solutions, as more creative brains create more ideas, which they can review and iterate on constantly and quickly. There is a reason why we have the old saying “two heads are better than one.”

A photograph of people creating a design strategy.

What is Pair Design?

The concept of Pair Design was pioneered by Cooper in 1997. It defines two main roles – the Generator and the Synthesiser. According to Cooper they fulfill two different but equally important parts in the design process. The Generator generates ideas and designs in a mostly visual way. Whereas the Synthesiser questions and critiques the Design and then translates it into words. In some ways the Synthesiser brings order to the Generators chaos, but both roles are not strictly defined and there is some overlap.

A digram of Pair Design. The left side shows the Generator while the right side shows the synthesiser.

What is the Pair Design process?

At the start of the Design process the team conducts research together. Here you can possibly spot the first differences between the Generator (overviews, ideas and diagrams) and the Synthesiser (often quite detailed transcripts) in their approaches.

After the research, the team will try to make sense of what they learned, compare notes and try to reach a mutual understanding of the User. For this purpose they create personas, to have a synchronised perception of who they design for.

The next steps are the brainstorming and ideation phases. Here, the differences between Generator and Synthesiser become really apparent. The Generator’s task is too ideate and get all possible Design solutions out of their system, while the Synthesiser’s role is to analyse and question the ideas in relation to how they will work for the user and meet the stakeholders KPIs.

The main benefit of Pair Design is a larger quantity of Design solutions which can be tested and questioned more frequently, resulting in more resolved solutions at a faster rate due to the Generator / Synthesiser relationship.

A photograph of two people drawing a prototype on the whiteboard.

What do we think of Pair Design?

Here at Graphic Mint, we are strong believers in the great possibilities Pair Design holds and use this method on as many of our projects as possible. This is not just my opinion, but those of my fellow designers too. Here are their thoughts on the matter:

Tim Lavin (User Experience Designer): “Pair Design, like all great partnerships, ensures that the design gets a constant reality check, creating more focused deliverables through working in harmony with each other.

Marc Brophy (User Experience Designer): “I highly recommend Pair Design. When you design with another person, you receive constant feedback on problems which otherwise might not have occurred to you. Even if you are presenting your ideas out loud, you sometimes realise that an idea which sounded good in your head, probably won’t work the way you thought it would.

Tatsiana Artsemiuk (User Interface Designer): “Pair Design yields better results than designing on your own. If you work alone you get used to your solutions and might not see the problems. When you design with a partner you not only get quick feedback, but you can also test your ideas on the go. In my opinion pair design is more efficient and you have more fun designing together, which is very conducive to keeping a creative mind.

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