How we do things is important

Tiffany Apatu
4 min readAug 15, 2017

Like many (every?) Design team, as we stormed-formed-and-normed we sat down and workshopped through our team tenets.

It’s really important to discuss and agree — together — what is important to you all as you go about your designy-things. Like in any relationship, teams need to put effort into truly understanding each other. It also shows the rest of your organisation that the “how” is just as important as the what.

Here are a few interesting things we’ve learnt about establishing the right operating principles:

  1. It isn’t a day one affair. If you want more than generic statements, you need to understand how your team naturally works. You need to give it some time to identify the actual challenges you face and agree on ways to work through them. People will also begin to see what’s important to others (and themselves) through natural interaction and process.
  2. Do it together. You can’t expect someone to buy into “what’s important to them” if they didn’t have input. Similarly, don’t just steal some other very sexy, very famous team’s principles. Of course, there’s a very good chance there will be a lot of overlap between most design teams, but there will also be differences, things that are more and less important to your team and perhaps things that are completely unique to your particular combination of humans.
  3. It isn’t all about making the world a better place. It’s okay to include practical and pragmatic statements or purposes. Make sure they actually help you do things better.
  4. Make sure you can see them. Display them in plain sight and refer to them when someone needs a gentle reminder.
  5. Keep them relevant. It’s definitely time we revisit this list for out team. Some things have just become completely engrained into our team culture and there are probably new things we need to adjust. As the team evolves, so too may your principles.

Console Connect Design team tenets

All ideas are valid and respected

Allow ideas to run freely! There is plenty of time to filter and cull but this shouldn’t happen before a concept has a chance to see the light of day. Sometimes great things come of wild ideas. It is better to overstretch and pull it back than to never hit the mark.

First draw, then talk

We are visual people and communicate best in pictures on paper, not arm gestures in the air! Take the time to sketch — no matter how basic — to remove ambiguity.

Ask more questions, make less statements

When someone presents a concept, ask questions, ask them to sell it! Don’t say “that won’t work” or “you haven’t thought about …” Instead, ask “how would someone …” or “could that be used to …?”. This not only builds a safe culture without judgement but helps that person fill in the gaps.

Respect the “shape” of a workshop

Beginning, middle and end. Start with clear goals, diverge, explore, converge and close.


Like anything, a great workshop rarely happens by accident. We will arrive at better outcomes through structured activities and boundaries. Ironically, the more we do this, the more spontaneous we can become.

  • Ensure everyone understands the goals of the session
  • What are the expected outputs/artefacts?
  • Which activities are best suited to your goals?
  • Do you have the right tools at your fingertips?
  • Is pre-work required?

Balance the individual and the group

We will allow people to explore ideas and concepts both individually and as a team. Sometimes, it is best to work on an idea and then share. The magic happens as the group extends, challenges and pushes the concept forward.

Design options over single solutions

Explore possibilities. Think how to scale different solutions in terms of complexity and effort.

Start simple, then go beyond!

You can’t solve everything at once. Start with simple, common scenarios and work up to edge-cases and curly problems, otherwise, nothing will get off the ground.

In it together

There are no heroes. It is our responsibility to make each other look amazing.