Creating Animoto’s Design Principles

Establishing a foundation for Design at Animoto

Illustration by Noelle Campbell

When I joined Animoto a year and a half ago, the design team was fairly small and had just launched our brand new marketing video builder. In over a year, our team has grown both in number and in the impact we have on the design of our products. With this growth, it became clear to me that we needed a foundation and a shared understanding regarding how we approach design and a framework for making design decisions.

To some extent, our shared understanding already existed and was being discussed in meetings and conversations, but we needed to define and articulate it into clear principles that were relevant and specific to Animoto and exist within the walls of our company.

Why design principles are important

It’s important to have design principles that are relevant to the company because they:

  • Promote a clear set of qualities our product should uphold across the entire organization
  • Provide a foundation for the company’s design system
  • Establish the success criteria that each design project can be measured against
  • Help create a consistent and purposeful experience for customers
Illustration by Noelle Campbell

How we created our design principles

Where we started

To develop our design principles, we first looked inward. It’s important to know and understand the company’s values, brand personality, and the experience that users have with the company. We interviewed stakeholders and held workshops with designers, engineers, product managers, marketing and customer success team. We asked the following questions in the workshops:

  • If our product was a person, it would be ___________.
  • If our product was a place, it would be ____________.
  • What are some personality traits or characteristics of our product?
  • What is the experience we want to create for our users?

These answers gave us insight into how people within our organization view ourselves and our product. Then we asked our users the same questions in a survey to get their perspective.

Bringing it all together

Next we began the process of synthesizing all the responses to identify recurring themes, like trustworthiness, ease of use, simplicity, and empowerment. Out of the seven distinct themes that emerged, we created the initial draft of our design principles. Then we held a workshop with product designers and researchers, where we tackled questions such as:

  • What characteristics should these principles exhibit?
  • When would these principles be used?
  • What format should these principles take?

It was important for the principles to align with business and user goals, to be short and memorable, yet specific enough to be useful for making design decisions, to be applicable to the whole system, and to not conflict or overlap with each other.

These principles were carefully and thoughtfully crafted to truly represent who we are, what we do, and to create a cohesive experience for our customers. After revising them with the design and content marketing teams, as well as other key stakeholders, we were ready to share them with the rest of the company.

Animoto’s Design Principles

After three months of internal and external research through interviews, workshops, surveys and group discussions, we crafted the design principles which became the pillars of our approach at Animoto:

Putting it into practice

During our bi-annual gathering known as MYAGI, I unveiled our brand new Design Principles to the larger company so that we could have a shared language across the whole company. I asked specific members of the Customer Success and Marketing teams to consider how they could also incorporate these principles into their team and their work. It became more than just principles to help guide design decisions, but the guiding light for everyone and everything we do at Animoto.

We’ve taken these principles and incorporated them in our design decisions and day-to-day work. These principles have also guided our future vision of the app and our design system. What began in the design team has now spread across all teams and we now share the same language and understanding.

Are you looking to create or update the design principles for your company or a company your work for? I’d love to learn why you’re excited to define or re-define them.

Do these design principles resonate with you? Join our team, we’re hiring.

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