design team

5 design principles to create a better design team

When working in a design team, the impossibility of reaching a common standard is (perhaps) the main problem at the design stage.

This is because putting together so many minds (often very different) is complicated, because you often don’t have the elastic ability to receive negative feedback without taking it personally, because sometimes the feedback you receive during a design job is not sufficiently motivated creating shadows in dialogues and impassable dialectical walls.

However, I believe that the main reason is to be found in the fact that the fundamental design principles are not followed.

We see below 5 fundamental factors that are really useful for an effective design team planning phase …

1# Empathy

It is no coincidence that it is considered a bit like the starting principle, this because empathy places the public before aesthetics, promising to achieve the project’s objectives together with the design.

A good design helps to “solve” the users’ problems by framing the solutions effectively and can only be created if, as a design team, we are in sync with the users’ goals, their operational context and their mental models.

Only when we start to see the world from the eyes of our users, the solutions started talking the same language as their problems.

Here are some actions to follow to create empathy …

  • Listen carefully and understand the problem. Do not immediately jump to the solution. Connect with people and discover the unknowns.
  • Observe users, discover their operational context. Only when we observe users in their real environment can we derive the true meaning of their needs.
  • Build emphatic maps for groups of people interviewed. This helps to better understand problems and design ideal solutions.
  • Cancel prejudices and show yourself open. Let the users express their needs.
  • Think of open questions that bring the conversation together and turn into interesting points of view. For example: “What other features would you have created if we were developing this application?”

2# Draw with content

“The content precedes the design. The design in the absence of content is not design, it is decoration.”

So said Jeffrey Zeldman, and one may even disagree but because we rely on our intuitions for content when we can clearly use real world data making our projects more clear also in the making?

By using Lorem Ipsum or any fictitious text, we are stripping away any character design. Instead of really understanding how the drawings would be used, we see Lorem Ipsum there as a dress that looks beautiful on a mannequin but tells you nothing about how the same dress will look at you!

Here’s what to do to design with real data: let’s try to work closely with our customer and his product to get realistic examples of data. This guarantees us (or almost) that the layout and the graphic elements thought do not collide against each other due to the variable length.

We also try to get different data sizes. In other words, let’s try to collect both summarized and complete content models. We then discover every possible way in which data can appear on the screen.

3# Default simplicity

Every complex action requires a lot of time and effort on the part of the user to be understood and assimilated. And there is always the real possibility that a complex interface will deter the user from returning and using it again in the future. This is whether we are talking about a website, packaging or advertising in the most general sense.

Achieving radical but effective simplicity in design is not easy. The design team need to understand the characteristics of the design and adapt them to the users’ goals.

A simple design always focuses on the essence of the problem and uses the mental models of users to reduce the cognitive load.

Few, very few elements that go straight to the point, a use of colors that does not shift the attention and a typography that is not lost in chatter and runs towards the goal.

Group useful information or hide it if necessary. Don’t hide the information if it makes our product less bulky. Rather we try to reduce the cognitive load on the user.

We use constructs that are already widely used and accepted in visual communication. For example, the mental model of a button is a rectangle (perhaps rounded) full or empty with text in the middle. We are all used to seeing call-to-action buttons like Send, Download, etc. So we don’t experiment with different forms for a button.

4# Consistency

Consistency is important to make the user experience effective. When using an application or product, users interact with the project more quickly if they encounter elements they already know from their previous experiences, or, if it’s an app, if they find common visual elements to screenshots and interfaces known previously.

Here is how the principle of consistency should be managed during the design phase in the work of a design team.

We need to create coherence through visual elements. Whether it’s colors, characters, buttons or icons, everything should remain the same throughout the product.

It is fundamental to build familiarity with commonly used user interface elements. Like the search box, the position of the logo, the menu (standard or “hamburger”) etc. Although it is beautiful (and also important) to experiment with new things, we do not do wild experiments but move our thinking with criteria. We accept the fact that our design must follow models that are already accepted and functionally effective.

5# Design as a state of mind

We need to design and predict the entire user experience.

A user experience worthy of the name takes care of every user: from those who use the product for the first time to those who are loyal, from the happy scenario to the unhappy one.

An overall user experience is created when the project takes care of these states.

Design for new users

We don’t think only in the black and white areas but also in the gray ones. For example, what happens when users use our product / service for the first time? We think of a convincing design that attracts and converts the user into a customer.

Design for conquered users

We use the principle of consistency accompanying the user and never leaving him alone.

Design for unhappy scenarios

We design functional alternatives to recover those who are going away or those who have stopped using a certain product / service by analyzing the reasons for a possible failure and working together with the customer in order to make him participate in his “return”. Design and aesthetics must follow this flow.

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