Design without chaos: 9 principles

Working in a team can be hard. Working with other teams can be hell.

When I started my professional life, working on the business side enabled me to observe the classic inefficiencies on projects, and everything that can go wrong in product development. To name a few: lack of communication, no minutes of meeting decisions, not asking users’ feedback on time, missing conversation trails, confusion in prioritization, etc. — I am sure a lot of people can relate to these. And working at scale with other teams makes it worse.

Can I come back when you guys agree on something?

To prevent mayhem on our projects at Societe Generale and be part of the solution, our Design team follows a mix of communication, project and team management principles. I gathered them through the years from the hundred of services designed for SG Markets, Societe Generale’s suite of BtoB services.

Everyone at Societe Generale is welcome to apply these principles with us and I am happy to share them on Medium — they are in their original format and directly addressed to our designers.

Follow these 9 principles for a happy team! Pic from design.sgmarkets.com

1. Start with a why

You are not here to make things “pretty”. Always make sure you understand why you are designing a screen or functionality. Nobody can blame you for asking the right questions, but do not wait until the end of the sprint or ask the same questions 2 weeks later!


2. Disagree and commit

I got this one from Amazon. We want you to challenge projects and processes from your designer point of view and your knowledge of our Design System, but once a decision or compromise has been made, stick to it.


3. Remember everything… or take notes

Things are complex, even more in the financial area. It’s easy to forget discussions and decisions. You can choose either to remember everything, or take notes. If you go for the notes, make sure you always carry a notebook with you.


4. If it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist

I heard this principle at a conference by Github’s Diana Mounter. If you followed the Principle 3, you now have amazing notes. Good for you! But for projects, always document decisions and deliveries to make sure that information is properly shared.


5. No layer, blame yourself

We hate micro management. We want more time for the actual work. And as Marvel’s Uncle Ben says, “with great power comes great responsibility”. You are empowered to design, so you cannot complain that “the brief was wrong”. You are in charge, it’s your project.


6. Steal for inspiration

Steal from previous projects, from everything that inspires you. Use the open approach like developers with open source projects, or Elon Musks with patents, or Internet Memes with stock photos. We thrive to leverage on the collective intelligence of a large company and innovate from others’ ideas and collective contribution.


7. You are a brand

You represent yourself, the design team, SG Markets, Societe Generale. We value diversity so be yourself. We value team spirit so embrace all of it.


8. Repeat

Do not assume everyone is always on the same page. Review the agenda before starting each meeting and do not hesitate to do a recap of our Design methodology, the principles of our Design System, the agreed use-cases, etc.


9. It’s not about Ego. It’s about Lego

This started as a joke from our Chief Digital Officer Alain Fischer and it made it to the digital strategy. Get insights from everybody. Ask your colleagues to be critical, what they really think. Even if you spent a lot of time on the project, ask and listen. You then decide what to retain or not. Remember that you were hired to contribute and build together things that can be plugged together.


All the UX, content and visual designers of our team follow these principles and champion them across the organisation. We regularly share stories about them in our weekly team catch-ups to make sure we keep them in mind. These little bits of experiences are also helpful to our new joiners.

On a personal level, I like to “repeat” Principle 8 on “Repeat” — I know, it is like an infinite loop. But I found out that our junior designers sometimes feel uncomfortable echoing information. They may think people already know what they are about to say, or are afraid to bother people.
What they don’t realize though, is that everyone have multiple things to do and can not remember everything. I always do a quickly recap of where the project stands before starting a meeting, which is a relief for a lot of people! Context is everything.
Another reason why our junior designers may be shy about Principle 8: they do not feel confident talking about strategic topics with senior people. It takes time to realize the privileged view we have of the global picture, as we share every design made within the team and keep track of all our services. This is why we pride ourselves in being facilitators of the digital strategy.

These principles definitely helped us plant the seeds of a real collaborative approach to design and push for the continual improvement of our customers’ experience.

Our little seeds of collaboration

Thanks for reading!

I hope this was insightful. How are things in your organisation? Have you tried to implement some of these principles?

If you liked them, don’t hesitate to clap 👏👏 and share. And if you think we are missing out on something important, let me know in the comments or message me directly.

Visit our Design website to learn more about what we do at Societe Generale.