Systems and Operations in the Design Profession
Photo by Deva Darshan on UnsplashI always loved conceptualizing and visualizing processes. As a product designer, I ended up working with a design team, doing user flows, user testing, design sprints, etc. As I was growing as a designer, I did more facilitation, customer journeys, created big conference events, etc. All those were activities that had processes, regardless of how broken or great they might have been. And as a process nerd, did I follow processes as rules written in stone? Not to the slightest. So, “what is the purpose?” you might ask. The best explanation I found was coined by Amy Thibodeau, stating that processes are smart defaults because “process is necessary, but good things can happen in ambiguous spaces”.Conceptualizing and visualizing processes enables us to navigate between smart defaults and ambiguous spaces, returning to those defaults when and if everything else fails.During the last few years, being involved closely with design systems, and operations helped me solidify a certain understanding of the intertwined relationship of systems and operations in a design profession that is inherently more complex by the day.Design Systems, in their modern form, have been pioneered and championed by hard-working professionals (examples: Jina Anne, Claudina Sarahe, Diana Mounter, Brad Frost, Dan Mall) who helped solidify not only the term but also the way that products are built globally. They are products that help our products and services be more customer-centric but they go beyond that. They increase cross-collaboration to much more effective levels.Beneath all the complex layers of technical solutions that design systems are built with, governed, and maintained, lies the fact that they solve real people problems. Has always been like that, even before they became a tech term.In parallel, Design Operations came into place to amplify the value of design in products and services. Whereas with Design Systems we solve issues on the technical side, or to be more specific to the design doing part, with Design Operations we aim beyond that, on an organizational and ways-of-working level. As it goes with all these terms, Design Operations is nothing new that we just happened to figure out as a concept. It is however a modernized form of practice aimed to fit in companies working on digital products and services.The practice goes beyond just processes or even systems. It addresses issues such as evolving and scaling of design teams, how they collaborate with other functions of a company (beyond technical processes of a Design System), and improving the quality of the design craft as well as its impact.Design Operations focuses on the how so that design can focus on the what. It is the design discipline that owns the intentional operationalizing, optimizing and scaling of design.– Rachel PosmanFrom A pocket guide to Design Operations by Rachel PosmanAnd this is nothing that should come as a surprise to anyone connected to the profession.By the word design, we put the human aspect into focus. “…when you design, you’re making a claim about how we should interact with a future object, and by extension, how we should interact with each other” Cennydd Bowles, author of Future Ethics, claims.By the word system, » Read More
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