23 June 2017
Peter Bogaards
Peter Bogaards

New kid on the block in design tactics

A short introduction to DesignOps

In a 2015 BiRDS post, we identified the emergence of Design Systems (or DesSys) as a renewed effort on (visual) style guides, pattern/component repositories and experience design libraries to provide in-house digital designers and front-end developers platforms, standards and tools to deliver coherence, consistency and balance in excellent customer experiences. Currently, we’re noticing extensions and developments of these kinds of systems with tactical principles, new approaches for communication and collaborative activities to connect and integrate design and development with operations, hence DesignOps (or DesOps).

Google Trends on DesignOps

Image: Google Trends on ‘DesignOps’

DesignOps, its foundation, mission and objectives

The idea of DesignOps is loosely inspired by the DevOps movement. As a set of principles, methods and activities in software engineering circles, DevOps is a software delivery process that emphasizes communication and collaboration from concept to market, including product management, software development, and operations professionals. DevOps also automates the process of software integration, testing, deployment and infrastructure changes. It aims to establish a culture and environment where building, testing, and releasing software can happen rapidly, frequently, and more reliably. DesignOps intends to do the same for connecting and integrating all things design, delivery and operations. Furthermore, it want to solve the lack of good communication between design and engineering teams.

But, according to design leader Dave Malouf (@daveixd), it’s definitely not DevOps for designers!

“DesignOps is the connective tissue, lubrication, and rails that amplify the value
of a design tea.” (Dave Malouf)

The mission of DesignOps is to amplify and empower cross-functional product teams. DesignOps was created to ease collaboration and increase effectiveness, not only across product disciplines, but also between the increasingly complex world of product design. With the bulk of designers, researchers and content strategists embedded in cross-functional teams, an operational gap emerged. A team dedicated to running a highly integrated and effective design organization is needed. So, DesignOps was born.

Coming from the perspective of Design Systems, some use the label DesignOps for a job title and position it as an intermediating role. For example, a Design Systems Ops is part of a design systems team, who needs to get into the designers’ shoes, and have a feel for what they are trying to conceptualize.

A key characteristic to increase the value, impact and relevance of design in organizations is its scalability. Design in an organizational context must not only be able to scale up but also to scale down. However, that’s a big problem in the industry, because design is hard to scale. DesignOps might be helpful in this respect.

DesignOps is in the service of designers. It’s essentially the business of creating an ecosystem that supports bottom-up leadership by empowering them to be the best that they can be.

In his presentation Redesign design, Matteo Cavucci (@MatteoMced) identifies three objectives of DesignOps.

  1. Design for learning: Complex adaptive systems are unpredictable and experimenting is part of the design process.
  2. Enable others to design: Minimize the effort required by designers and non-designers to produce high-quality design artefacts.
  3. Connect design and operations: Launching a new product is just the beginning, not the end, of a continuous design process.

As DevOps itself is still a learning endeavor, DesignOps is even more so. Designers still have so much to learn, create, try, and measure to see ultimately how will they amplify the value that design brings to organizations.

Dive further into DesignOps

If this post got you interested in DesignOps, the following pointers are good starters.

About the author

Peter Bogaards (a.k.a. @BogieZero) is the editor-in-chief of our blog BiRDS. Peter also works as a curator and coach at Informaat experience design. He has been an online content curator avant-la-lettre in various UX-related fields for almost three decades, choosing what he thinks is interesting, relevant or remarkable to share.

Design (17), Methodologies (11)