Creating Principles for Your Design Team

Most designers are familiar with design principles, or the key characteristics and goals for a product that help designers validate their design decisions. Our design team at SalesforceIQ decided to define not just the design principles that drive our product design decisions but also the principles that drive our behaviors as a team. After several introspective conversations around who we are as a team, we came up with our initial set of Design Team Principles.

What are these principles, exactly?

Design team principles are tenets that guide us toward how we want to operate as a design team in order to make us happy and successful each day at work.

They are used to keep each other honest as we work together and work with the broader team. They also set expectations for how we want others to perceive us and how our actions influence those perceptions.

These principles aren’t just words to throw up on a wall or something we created once and subsequently forgot about. These principles are core to how we operate as designers at SalesforceIQ. They help us evolve and improve by understanding:

  • What are we doing now that embodies these principles?
  • What are we doing that might be counter to these principles?
  • What should we change in order to live up to these principles?

It’s worth noting that none of these principles are entirely exclusive to us as a design team, and one could argue these are principles everyone should live up to. However, they have helped us personally focus on our behaviors and identify personal development areas to help us better engender these principles.

Below are the principles that we have defined for our team.

Our Attitude: We are…

  • Passionate and driven about our craft
  • Positive in our attitude toward the challenges that we may face
  • Supportive of all team members, always being inclusive and respectful of others
  • Weird in the way we embrace strange ideas and our own quirkiness so that we cultivate creativity
  • Witty, silly, and fun so that we encourage thinking differently and enjoy our everyday work life
  • Frickin’ Friendly to everyone and anyone, staying kind and caring in our actions
  • Humble about our skills and always willing to continually learn and improve
  • Egalitarian in how we perceive our team members and our respective contributions to the team

Working With Others: We are…

  • Collaborative allies when working through ideas and coming up with solutions
  • Open and receptive to feedback, criticism, educating others, and evolving our processes
  • Flexible in how we operate and address constraints
  • Approachable and accessible to others’ needs whenever possible
  • Reliable and trustworthy team members
  • Authentic in our attitude and approach, staying honest to ourselves and others
  • Transparent in how we make decisions and consider tradeoffs

Our Approach: We are…

  • Creative when thinking through ideas, always exploring concepts and being adventurous
  • Thoughtful in how we approach our design work and how we interact with each other
  • Scientific and informed by data in our processes and how we make design decisions
  • Active in keeping up to date with best practices and participating within the design community
  • Strategic in how we approach problems, staying proactive instead of reactive
  • Advocates for the user and our design process
  • Practical in our solutions, always considering the implications of our solutions

In creating similar principles for your team, think about what is important to you and how you want the team to contribute to the broader company. These principles should be revisited frequently and owned by the entire team. And lastly, the principles should help you identify tactical ways to make your team happier and more successful. Use them to find opportunities to make the team operate more effectively, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.