Design Principals

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Design Thinking

The man who wants a drill, needs a hole.
…or maybe to mount a shelf. It depends.

Asking the right questions at a project’s kickoff helps us understand the wants, needs, and goals of the user base – which obviously leads to better results.

One cannot easily answer a need without understanding it first

A solutions based approach to problem solving

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

—Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO

1. Learn
  • Immersion: Scope the problem to establish a timeline and identify important benchmarks
  • Understand: Dive into the problem to understand the context, users, interactions and desired outcomes
2. Create
  • Define: Break down the research to form ideas of how the goals can be achieved
  • Strategize: Outlines are sketched, prototypes are built and possible solutions are visualized
3. Make
  • Build: The chosen path is produced, interactions are created and prototypes are turned into reality
  • Measure: Once a solution is produced it should be measured and improved upon

In a nutshell

By bringing together the initiators, builders and users a very productive conversation can take place with a goal of understanding the problem. Discovery of what the root paradigm actually is, of what the user expects, of technical constraints and much more. By bringing together these parties to brainstorm an array of ideas can be explored to better state the goal and define a strategy to achieve said goal. The diagram below outlines one of the pathways for design thinking. Learning enables creation of a plan which then enables the making and following through on the plan.

1. Define
  • Purpose
  • Flow
  • Goals
2. Create
  • Content
  • Styles
  • Structure
  • UX
3. Refine
  • User Experience
  • Scaleability
  • Flow
  • Content
  • Functionality
4. Release
  • Test/Measure
  • Refine

Learn more about Design Thinking

Helpful links to learn more about the process and goals of Design Thinking

The 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process by the Interaction Design Foundation is a great overview of the rational and goals underlying the Design Thinking process.

IDEO who have been leading the charge of using and developing Design Thinking methodologies says: “Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.”

Design thinking refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing.[1] Design thinking is also an approach that can be used to consider issues, with a means to help resolve these issues, more broadly than within professional design practice and has been applied in business as well as social issues.[2] Design thinking in business uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.[3]

User Experience Research

Let’s not pretend to be the user

It’s easy to assume. It’s common to assume. Lot’s of people do it, so what’s the big deal?! Whelp, you know the idiom… Gathering every last piece of information available and evaluating it prior to making any decisions is critical. Realizing when the available insight isn’t enough to accurately determine an answer the the question(s) at hand is important too.

It’s easy to get a lot of perspective with automated tools like Google Analytics and Hot Jar (amongst a plethora of others) providing passive insight on a quantitative scale.  For new products that aren’t yet backed by existing data it’s time to gain insight through user interviews, competitive research, and other techniques.

Learn more about UX Research

Some helpful resources to help you understand the value of UXR

A handy collection of resources and tools by Paulina Barlik focused on user research with all sorts of handy ideas and explanations.

The Nielsen Norman Group are legends of human centered design and have pioneered a great deal of research techniques and methodologies. Don Norman was a very early promoter of human centered design and has written such tombs as The Design Of Everyday Things.

User Interviews breaks down a plethora of tools and their use in a very cool UX Research Tools Map. From active research to insight management, opps and passive insight this map helps make since of many research tools.

Atomic Design Methodology

The atomic model enables design, development and iteration to happen simultaneously which yields a much faster project timeline. Another strong advantage is the use of universal elements. Thus changing the style of a single atom, molecule, organism or template results in a universal update. No more tracking down and identifying every instance of an asset and updating it one at a time.

The Atomic Design building blocks

Develop a pattern based workflow made of smaller components. These “atoms” are used to build different “molecules” which then join together to to form “organisms”.  From there templates are created and assembled to build pages. It’s like designing with toy blocks.

Learn more about Atomic Design

Some helpful links to learn more about Atomic Design methodologies

The book Atomic Design by Brad Frost is a primer on this new methodology by the man who has been developing and promoting it for the past few years. is a database tool for organizing and building with atomic design elements. Built by Brad FrostDave Olsen and Brian Muenzenmeyer this tool is a static site generator that allows for easy collaboration and adjustment of site-wide elements. Styles can be easily reviewed in a browser as can breakpoints.

Creative Bloq’s take — 10 reasons you should be using Atomic Design by Richard Bray

Deliver faster with agile development

A modern workflow for modern work. Design and develop in tandem — collaborate and create as an agile team.

Gain Efficiency and flexibility by killing old-school compartmentalized processes and their waterfall or trickle-down workflow. Why keep chasing our tails trying to track down approvals, troubleshoot marketing/creative/build/financial requirements and explain blown timelines? TLC had it right – don’t go chasin’ waterfalls.

The Old Way: Waterfall process


The waterfall process evolved in a time when segmentation was a result of rigid organizational structures. Tools were limited and the digital realm was a much simpler place. This process requires everybody down the pipeline wait for assets before they can begin producing their piece of the project. With ever changing visual and functional expectations from those making approvals, siloed creative rarely meshes with the digital capabilities originally spec’d. Delays and revisions are painful and inevitable.


The Old-school waterfall process

Agile Development


With a little more effort early on to research and define the scope of a project, the bulk of development and design can happen in parallel. The agile approach reduces the total time a project takes and tends to deliver well thought out and future focused products. Different teams apply ‘agile’ methodologies differently. Some blend Kanban and Scrum ideals to leverage strengths or weaknesses within their company/team structure.

1. Concept & Wireframe
  • Define Goals
  • Create Flow
  • Design Structure
  • Approvals
2. Design User Interface
  • Design Styles
  • Visual Language
  • Typography
  • Approvals
3. Develop
  • Convert design to code
  • Test
  • Troubleshoot
  • Approvals

Learn more about agile development

Helpful links to learn more about the process and goals of Design Thinking

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development combines years of experience and late 20th century development methodologies into a methodology focused on end-user satisfaction and frequent team interactions.

Agile Alliance logo

The Agile Alliance gives a great overview of the ideals and key concepts that support agile software development.