Dan Brown

Dan Brown
  • Founder and principal at EightShapes
  • Washington, D.C., USA

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Curiosity, skepticism, and humility

Discovery, the first part of the design process, is crucial for aligning teams. A well-aligned team works toward the same goal, and brings out the best in each other because they all understand what their trying to achieve.

Discovery can take many forms: a multi-month endeavor to prepare for a complex business application, or a four-day “sprint” to align the team around a vision for a new product. Whatever the form, however, teams are prepping and priming themselves to do detailed design and development work.

Discovery is complicated, chaotic, and messy. In discovery, teams gather information about the problem and then explore different ways to tackle it. Through critical thinking, they refine their understanding of the problem and zero-in on a concrete plan for execution. Discovery requires participants to shift attitudes and perspectives almost constantly. Team members go from “tell me more about” to “how about this idea” in the blink of an eye.

To pull this off successfully, team members need to embrace a discovery mindset. This attitude emphasises learning. It relies on team members maintaining an open mind, questioning everything, and above all not taking themselves too seriously.


Dan leads projects to define the experience for complex digital products. He uses design and facilitation techniques to uncover and clarify problems and align teams around a product definition. Dan collaborates effectively with both executives and practitioners to define the overall product strategy and design the product experience. He co-founded EightShapes in 2006 to elevate the practice of user experience in the Washington, DC area and beyond.

Dan wrote three books for design teams dealing with making design teams more effective and jump-starting the design process. He designed a card game for designers to help them improve their conflict resolution skills. He recently launched a new deck of cards to inspire designers working on difficult information architecture problems.