Credits to Victor Garcia (Unsplash)

You’re having a coffee break with your colleague, who is suddenly talking about “DesignOps” as the new trend and you find yourself nodding your head while you’ve never heard of it.

Anything to avoid passing off as clueless, right?


It comes from DevOps

DevOps is the practice of aligning software development, system operations, automation, and more to allow for continuous integration and deployment for the purpose
of continuous learning.

— InVision: DesignOps Handbook

Sorry, but what does it have to do with DesignOps?

DevOps and DesignOps are both responses to the same underlying phenomenon.

— Jeff Sussna, UX Matters

Not one single definition

DesignOps refers to the orchestration and optimization of people, processes, and craft in order to amplify design’s value and impact at scale.

— Nielsen Norman Group

DesignOps is the key to scaling digital product design teams with more efficiency.

— Dave Malouf, the Progression Podcast

Underlying common goal(s)

Companies are building complex high-quality products, and they have the expectation to deliver faster, thus produce more. To meet this goal, they need to create their own chain of production that will ensure the product’s quality, allow people to have a defined role, and guarantee that deadlines are met.

3 different meanings

Why, DesignOps, though?

Brooks’ Law

Industrialism as taught us to treat large systems like machines. While these systems might be very complicated, if we can break them into their component parts and make sure all the components work, the whole system will work.

— Jeff Sussna, UX Matters

Amplifying the Value of Design

Let the Designers design

Good management practices

Many organizations expect their designers to wear many hats — project manager, cross-functional partner, creative leader, and logistical coordinator. However, these additional roles reduce the time your designer can devote to your product and users.

— InVision: DesinOps Handbook

Demonstrate the value of Design

Animation by Deekay

“Could you make this red a bit more orange my dear?”

Craft Specialization as an outcome

Pretending you are expert on everything, does not mean anything.

At the time we were graphic designers, we did a little bit of everything. […] I think that [Craft Specialization] is a good thing because you can’t be good at everything.*

— DesignOps at Engie (*translated from French)

With DesignOps comes Craft Specialization. And that’s not always possible when the Design team is small and at an early stage. The requirement for specialist on specific Design roles often comes when the organization itself scales and matures.

— InVision, DesignOps Handbook.

On that note, how and when do we do DesignOps?

Guess what? It’s not new.

The question is not when do you start having design operations but when or how do you start becoming intentional about the operational part of your design practice.

— Dave Malouf, Progression Podcast #16

So taking your first steps in DesignOps, I think is trying to see why you want to do it. What problem do you want to fix: is it because someone else has a DesignOps function or is there a problem somewhere.

— DesignOps at Air France

It starts with a challenge

The practice of Design Ops often emerges from a single individual — somebody who has noticed inefficiencies in the current system, and has hacked something together in their own time to reduce repetition.

— Clearleft: DesignOps, A New Discipline.

Design System as a turning point

But how do we fit DesignOps in a company’s organization?

There are a lot of components within DesignOps, and what an organization chooses to select — or to pass on — should depend on the current need and most poignant pain points of that organization.

— Nielsen Norman Group

Start by defining the scope

What does DesignOps usually entail?

Who is involved with DesignOps?

DesignOps applies to anyone using user-centered and design-thinking processes to solve problems.

— Nielsen Norman Group

What does it mean to be a DesignOps?

Who is the DesignOps person?

I often tell my teams: ‘help me to help you’. *

— DesignOps at Engie (* translated from French)

What are the DesignOps’ roles?

The simple thing as preparing the desk for your new recruits’ first day can already be considered as DesignOps because it helps to make them operational to do their job.

Which types of challenges?

People over processes

[DesignOps] also protects the design teams’ health by preventing burnout. By dedicating time and space for feedback sessions and by defining clear objectives, the designers feel that they are more valued and not running after unclear expectations.

— InVision, DesignOps Handbook

The way I look at it is that, velocity comes from the well-being of people. What’s important to me and what still motivates me today, […] is really that people feel good, and from there, if people feel good, then the velocity comes out of it.*

— DesignOps at Engie (* translated from French)

Is a Designer’s Background mandatory?

You want someone who can build cross-functional relationships while representing design, and who understands the design process.

— InVision, DesignOps Handbook

What makes a good DesignOps

Quick bonus: DesignOps & Agile



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Product Designer based in Paris. Huge fan of Friends. How you doin?