Dave Wright on design as a team sport

When I first started talking to Stripe, I didn’t know much about the Design team, aside from the near-constant stream of beautiful work they produced. I figured there must have been an army of designers packed in to some airplane hangar-sized studio, cranking away.

I was surprised to learn that the Stripe Design team was quite lean, relative to the size of the company. What was the secret that let this small team create such a huge impact? As I dug in, I found that all Stripes, not just the design team, are expected to be stewards of a good user experience.

I loved hearing about how everyone at Stripe thinks about creating the best user experience first, then works backwards from there. This keeps the designs focused, purpose driven. It’s great that designers at Stripe don’t have to spend time convincing their colleagues why they should care about users. Instead, we can devote more energy to solving problems.

I learned about how the Stripe Design team values execution and follow-through. Many design teams are good at coming up with creative solutions to problems, but they often fail when it comes time to translate those ideas into tangible actions. The Design team at Stripe is unique because of its Design Operations team, which is focused on building and maintaining operational skills within the team. At Stripe, Design Ops is an incredible force multiplier that helps this lean team deliver beautiful and useful experiences.

Finally, I saw how Stripe truly believes that design is a team sport that works best with early collaboration. Designers help other Stripes build great experiences by investing in consistent systems and reusable components. Stripe has built a team that works hard to communicate about how they work, making everyone feel like design is approachable and understandable, not a mysterious black box.

The more I learned about this team and the things they value, the more I understood how they were able to consistently put out such great work. I’m glad I got to know these talented, funny, and generous designers, but I’m even more grateful I get to call them my teammates.


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