In 7th grade, our science teach gave us a terrarium project meant to teach us about ecosystems. Ecosystems can be large like a forest or small like a fish tank. No matter the scale, ecosystems are perfectly balanced systems-within-systems. A design organization is its own system; designing any system that can sustain itself requires a bit of specialized knowledge of the interplay of its many component parts and their relationship to the whole.
In preparation for the upcoming inaugural Rosenfeld Media DesignOps Summit, I took the chance to reach out to some of the folks helping to define this forceful blend of inventive business strategy and tactical design thinking: Louis Rosenfeld, Michael Polivka, Tomer Sharon, Dave Malouf, Adekunle Oduye, Jim Kalbach, Brad Frost.
Although many executives have embraced the value of design in creating products and services that users both want and need, building and scaling design teams is still a painful practice. It’s clear that there’s a need for a dedicated focus on applying the tenets of design thinking to our own organizational models in order to make the improvements necessary to sustain businesses in a disruptive world.
DesignOps (design operations) looks to find answers to questions like:
- How can we streamline the iterative cycle by setting standards for designers and developers alike?
- Which management style works best for the teams of today that rely on collaboration, transparency and consistent innovation? What can we learn from the experiments of other creative teams?
- How do we build the best design team? What are the skills we should hire for?
- What might design organizations look like in the near future?
The resources below are just some of the ideas to help get leaders of design teams and organizations thinking about what it really takes to put design at the center of their business strategy.
Intro to DesignOps
Leaders in this emerging field explore the defining aspects of design operations, including what Fabian Fabian describes as its “cultural proximity to DevOps.”
New Kid on the Block in Design Tactics: A Short Introduction to Design Ops | Peter Bogaards| article
Design Thinking and Innovation
Tim Brown of IDEO explains design thinking as a “human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success,” and it’s exactly what organizations need to survive.
Design Thinking | Nigel Cross | book
Leadership and Management
These works explore the need for creative leaders who can rapidly adapt to the changing times and build teams capable of creating and maintaining competitive products and services.
Rise of the DEO| Maria Guidice | video
Work Rules! | Laszlo Bock | book
Design Leadership Handbook | Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery | online book
Re:Work | Google | website
Driving Digital Transformation at Scale: A Chat with GE’s David Cronin | David Cronin and Lou Rosenfeld | audio interview
Design systems, along with style guides, are a great tool for standardizing design elements across an organization and give designers and developers a shared language to work with.
Living Design Systems | Jina Anne | video
Material Design | Google | website
Human Interface Guidelines | Apple | website
Communicating User Research
There’s little sense in conducting research that produces results that aren’t used to inform design decisions. Teams need to know what research methodology to use when, and plan ahead to make sure the results are both understood and acted upon efficiently.
Connected UX | Aaron Walter | article
Systems thinking is a study in complexity. There are so many moving parts to a design organization that it can be overwhelming to move forward on a strategy that doesn’t seem to account for all the endless unknowns. Systems thinking helps leadership cope with these systems by defining their parts and their relationships.
Thinking in Systems | Donella Meadows | book
DesignOps in a Post-Industrial World: Crash-Coursing Complex Systems | Jeff Sussna and Louis Rosenfeld | audio interview
The heart of design is intention. These resources look at what it means to live life intentionally and how to use creativity to remove or reframe what’s holding us back. This is what design might look like on the personal level.
Thinking, Fast and Slow| Daniel Kahneman | book
How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life | Dalai Lama | book
Deep Work | Cal Newport | book