DesignOps: A List of Resources

Melissa McGrath
5 min readOct 20, 2017


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.”

Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Design Teams | Peter Merholz and Kristin Skinner | book

New Kid on the Block in Design Tactics: A Short Introduction to Design Ops | Peter Bogaards| article

There’s No Design at Scale Without Design Ops | Michael Polivka | article

What is Design Operations and Why Should You Care? | Dave Malouf | article

DesignOps Webinar | Dave Malouf | video

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.

Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking | Stanford | articles and video

Change by Design | Tim Brown | book

The Art of Innovation | Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman| book

Design Thinking | Nigel Cross | book

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation | Steven Johnson | book

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers| Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo | 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 and Christopher Ireland | book

Rise of the DEO| Maria Guidice | video

Work Rules! | Laszlo Bock | book

Design Leadership Handbook | Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery | online book

Human Dynamics | Sandra Seagal and David Horne | book

Re:Work | Google | website

Driving Digital Transformation at Scale: A Chat with GE’s David Cronin | David Cronin and Lou Rosenfeld | audio interview

DesignOps at Airbnb: How We Manage Effective Design at Scale | Jeff Crossman | article

Design Systems

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.

Scale Your Speed-to-Innovation with Design Systems | Ryan Mulloy | article

Distilling How We Think About Design Systems | Sarah Federman | article

A Design System Isn’t a Project. It’s a Product, Serving Products. | Nathan Curtis | article

DesignOps For All of Us | Fabian Fabian | article

Living Design Systems | Jina Anne | video

The Way We Build | Alex Schleifer | article

Material Design | Google | website

Human Interface Guidelines | Apple | website

GE’s Predix Design System | Jeff Crossman | article

Website Style Guide Resources | Brad Frost and Anna Debenham | 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.

Seeing the Elephant | Louis Rosenfeld | article

Connected UX | Aaron Walter | article

Democratizing UX | Tomer Sharon | article

The Atomic Unit of a Research Insight | Tomer Sharon | article

WeWork’s Polaris: A System for Deciding What to Work On | Tomer Sharon | video

Systems Thinking

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

Life Design

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

Designing Your Life | Bill Burnett and Dave Evans | book

Designing Your Life | Bill Burnett| video

Steal Like an Artist | Austin Kleon | book

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life | Dalai Lama | book

Deep Work | Cal Newport | book

Designing the Workspace

Our physical environment can have an enormous influence on our behavior. This type of design looks at how we can build a space that encourages collaboration and play.

Make Space | scott doorley and Scott Witthoft | book