DesignOps (known as design operations) has been on the rise in the digital design world for the past two and a half years already. DesignOps is a set of practices designed to consistently deliver high-quality and high-value design through efficiency. Although these practices are not entirely new, awareness of the added value of DesignOps is growing.
The trend is also slowly getting traction in the Netherlands. So, together with Liberty Global, an international TV and broadband company, and Uizard, a start-up on the rise with their design automation tool, we invited design leaders from a variety of industries to an exclusive event to discuss the latest design maturity trends and the state of DesignOps in the Netherlands.
Design in an automated future
The event started with an inspiring and personal talk by Andrew Kearney, Director Design & Studio at Liberty Global - now partner at Amsterdam based agency Fab Digital - who delved into the question: how will designers continue to add value in a continuously automated world? To see the relation between DesignOps and automation, we were invited to look at the definition for DesignOps.
Andrew challenged the currently accepted model, which says that DesignOps is the optimization of design output by means of process and capability improvements. He proposed, though somewhat prematurely in his words, to add to this a new definition which emphasizes the role of technology: "DesignOps is also about getting technology to free up creatives to be amazing at what they are best at." Alongside the day to day management of DesignOps, this thinking emphasises design leadership to establish optimal insight and delivery through all parts of organisations and into the user’s hands.
DesignOps will eventually improve our work by embracing design systems, improving quality and efficiency, automating to eliminate production work, and streamlining delivery and insights. So that designers can focus on the parts that cannot be artificially automated. The human aspect of design, the creative parts, such as empathy and intuitively caring.
Go through Andrew’s presentation slides for even more inspiring quotes of his talk.
The business value of design
The second speaker, Martijn Pillich, Sales Director & Partner at Hike One talked from the perspective of the four themes laid out in the McKinsey Design Index. MDI is a measure for how strong companies are at design and how it links to financial performance. He then offered typically DesignOps practices, that can ultimately increase the business value of design by applying them onto each MDI theme (see image below).
To begin with, we need to lead our design practice based on measurable results, not on gut feeling. To improve analytical leadership, we should tie design metrics to business goals. For example, by using Google’s HEART-framework.
Another valuable tip looks at cross-functional talent. Consider breaking down silos by inviting designers in other departments. Or encourage leadership to spend time with customers and introduce them as experts in design sprints. Design should be everyone’s responsibility.
Moreover, embracing continuous iteration highlights that design is more than a phase. Testing as early as possible and as often as needed can save time and energy in the long run. User insights guide us to the next step in product design.
Another set of practices that caters to overall user experience, which looks past concrete products, are design principles. They set objectives and align designs across products in the whole user journey.
Go through Martijn’s presentation slides for more practical tips.
Automation vs. human effort
At companies where design is mature, the design department serves as a facilitator: an enabler of ideas and energy. The challenge to speed up design delivery, without compromising the high-quality design outputs pushes us to formalize, standardize, script or even automate.
To showcase this, Rizwan Khan and Florian van Schreven from Uizard, a start-up that offers an automation solution for designers, wrapped up the event with a demo of their tool.
Uizard wants to improve the designer-developer workflow that too often results in more frustration than innovation. Designers want to focus on solving problems, sketch neat screens with end-users in mind. But iterating over multiple solutions when reviewing the sketches with developers often prolongs the going from an idea to the creation of a prototype.
Since 88% of design ideas start with pen and paper, Uizard created a tool to automatically transform hand-drawn wireframes into digital design files and front-end code. Using artificial intelligence and image recognition, designers can keep on adding value and deliver their best creative work. The result: Less manual work, more iteration circles, and fostered innovation.
Go through Rizwan and Florian’s presentation slides and check out their tool.