Don't leave design to designers: we're all in the design team

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We are all designers. This is the sentence you will see at the end of this piece, a consideration that many teams fail to realise.

Making creative projects requires going through a process. This process can be more or less specialised across the varying stages of its realisation, but in all cases, you are usually designing for an end purpose – a player, a reader, a customer, a user. And according to Joe Holland, user experience lead at Organic, failing to understand the role of design in the creation process can bring to many catastrophic results.

We've had a chance to reach out to Joe to ask him why the stakeholders in a creative project should all see themselves as part of the design team.


Why we're all in the design team

The digital industry is well established, it’s been around for ages. But design is still often thought of as a single discipline, a step in a linear process, the domain of one person or a specific team of people with one skill-set - ‘designing’.

Design, in my opinion, is a process rather than a job description. But with a role like this, so many assumptions come along. ‘Design is when you make something look pretty’, people say, or worse, ‘designers colour stuff in’. They posture ‘designers use Photoshop and Illustrator, designers are the creative ones’.

But it's so much more. 

At Organic, we create digital experiences for our clients. These might be websites or apps, adverts or tools, data visualisations and dashboards, utility or marketing or entertainment. All of these need to be designed - but the process of ‘designing’ doesn’t start when the ‘designer’ opens their chosen vector graphics editor, it starts when we receive the brief from our clients.

Take designing a piece of furniture as an example. Type ‘furniture design process’ into your search engine of choice and you’ll see that, broadly speaking, the design process looks something like this:

  1. Research
  2. Design concept
  3. Create a scale model
  4. Build a prototype
  5. Product testing
  6. Presentation

With the exception of the ‘scale model’, it’s pretty similar to the process used by many companies to create digital products. This is a design process.

I’m not a furniture designer (although I wish I was) but I’m sure that within each of these steps there are a number of different disciplines working together to achieve the goal. The design process starts with the research and ends with presentation of the product. Digital products are no different. In the creation of any physical product, like a piece of furniture or a car, ‘design’ is thought of as a broad process, not a discipline. It’s the creation process.

In some parts of the digital product world, there is still a perception that when we make a product - be it an app, a website or a tool - the design is isolated, and happens at a certain point in the process. It’s so much more and completed by so many more people. That’s not to say that interface design isn’t a crucial part of the product design process - it is - but so is research, information architecture, coding and user testing

Strategists, researchers, UXers, interface designers, interaction designers, copywriters, developers, dev ops, technologists, account managers, project managers and any number of other disciplines are all part of the design team at Organic - and part of the design process too. Designing digital products starts when we get the brief and ends when we ship the product

For your next project I encourage you to think of the entire team as a design team and the whole process as a design process. This encourages the whole team to focus on and consider the users that they are designing for, and it broadens the roles of the individuals in the project, giving them licence to input into all stages of the process - not just their bit, because “I’m not the designer”.

We are all designers.

Joe Holland is the user experience lead at Organic.


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