Design Process

How I do what I do.

“Wait a minute,” you say to yourself, “Why do you, a design leader, need to spell out a design process? Doesn’t your team do that work?” Sure, the team might do it, but it’s important to spell out out for two reasons:

  • I wouldn’t ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. And depending on the situation, I may actually do it myself. Practice, after all, is how you stay sharp and relevant.
  • I want my team and other collaborators to know where I stand and where I’m coming from.

That being said, my design process is thoughtful, intentional, and geared towards speedy delivery. From the first moment of every project, I collaborate deeply with everyone involved in its development.

This process isn’t always linear, nor is a double diamond or any other cute little infographic that makes for a good slide in a deck. It’s a set of strong defaults aimed at quickly discovering and delivering the best possible solution. (By the way, I wrote about the philosophy behind my process if you’d like to read it.)

Strategy #

Before beginning anything, I’ll try to understand the following:

  • Scope the engagement or effort: How long this will take? Who will it take? Who’s best for this project? And finally, what’s the value that everyone gets from this?
  • Discover the problem: Instead of wasting time and money with unnecessary discovery exercises, I make sure I’m not going to tell a stakeholder something they already know.
  • Find out who we’re helping: Good design starts with humans first. It’s imperative to sit with people (stakeholders, too!) listen, and understand what their problems are before jumping to a solution.
  • Identify a product/market fit: Whether that’s an opportunity solution tree or another brainstorming exercise, I make sure that we can map a person’s needs to a company’s capabilities.
  • Form hypotheses: I love a good test, and try to find ways to (in)validate notions quickly so we don’t waste time, money, or trust.

Design #

I do all the typical things you’d expect from a designer and have a relentless bias towards starting strong and delivering quickly.

  • Center on humans first: To to this, I create user research plans, write interview scripts, do ethnographic interviews to understand who I’m helping. I seek out diverse opinions from people who don’t look or think like me. This isn’t a one-and-done exercise, it’s a constant practice.
  • Think in systems: Everything is connected. I consider the entire experience a person has when using what we make, not just the app I’m working on.
  • Build consistently: Everything should feel like it’s in the same family. Remember: the design systems can change: they exists to serve us, not the other way around.
  • Create prototypes: I craft prototypes at just the right fidelity to communicate the idea I need validation on. (Okay, so maybe I put a little more polish on it than most, but still: I get them out quickly.)
  • Collaborate: Good products die in silos, as do designers. So anyone’s welcome in my Figma. I pair consistently with engineers, product managers, and anyone else involved to cultivate a shared sense of ownership and get the most of everyone’s insights.

Managing and Mentoring #

I take joy is in supporting a team and being a part of someone’s growth. Here’s what I practice as a leader:

  • Listen: It’s easy to jump to solutions, but your team likely already knows the answers. I help my team process their thoughts and draw out those solutions.
  • Practice transparency: I can’t promise I’ll always do what my team wants, but I do promise to be transparent with the reasons behind any decision.
  • Be consistent: I create consistent leveling guidelines and give everyone the chance to move up in a way that benefits both them and the company.
  • Be with them: Leaders lose relevance when they don’t practice their craft. Pair with your team, learn and grow with them.
  • Make it safe: I make it safe to give and receive feedback. Teams model their behavior of their leaders, especially when it comes to feedback and psychological safety. If leaders don’t make it safe to give feedback, everyone suffers.

See Also #