In 2017 at Element AI, as an early employee (#18), I basically cofounded the design department, I hired designers and established the design best practices and methodologies.
I lead user research activities involving as many people as possible in the company in order to teach and develop internal tools using design methodologies. Activities were selected from the following;
- UCD (user-centred design) and HCD (human-centred design)
- Goal-Directed Design (Cooper’s)
- Art of Hosting & Dynamic Governance
- Agile, Modern Agile, Scaled Agile Framework
- Service Design, Design Thinking and Design Thinking 2.0
- Sprint Design (Google Venture)
The value of these activities was instantly acknowledged because participants (team mates) were consulted and they felt their opinion counted. And because they took part of the entire process, from the research plan, interviews, compiling and modelling of the research phase.
For instance, I lead about a dozen Affinity Diagram exercises involving the various teams, so they could see the research findings unfold before their own eyes. They could objectively build their requirement list based on real user needs.
In every team I worked with in my first two years at EAI, I brought this mentor attitude and I helped the team discover their target audiences and to prioritized what was bringing the most value to the end user.
Official Design Ops Role
In early 2019, my role became official. I joined the Design Ops Community and started to met regularly with my new peers. I soon discovered a was in service to the various design teams… and needed to make them awesome every step of the way!
The team consisted of 28 designers; ranging from service designers, design researchers, product designers, visual designers and front-end developers. My mission was to make them aligned with the product team, consistent in their work and synchronized in their process.
I started by interviewing my team mate to understand really what they knew about Design Ops, what they were expecting from me and how I could best help them.
I also assisted an intern who was conducting a research on team collaboration to complete his Master degree. So we exchanged our findings and co-created a design workshop.
Repository and Knowledge Sharing Space
Based on what I had heard in the interviews, I started to organized the documents, courses materials, assets and toolkit we had in the Google Drive repo. Everything was easy to find!
I then cleaned up the Design Confluence Space to show the rest of the company who we were, what we were currently working on individually and how we could help them. Living documents, the repo and confluence space were reviewed and improved regularly.
I took on the discussions with the tools partners and training programs (Atlassian, Asana, Invision, Sketch, Miro, Mural…) in order to maximized the efficiency of the design teams according to their needs, but also strive for consistency. We had to choose a single management tool and aligned with the devs and the rest of the company.
The design process was a tough one to nail, not only because of the various groups within the design team – and we had hope to map every handshake between everyone along the way, building a product – but because we had not built a product end-to-end with a repeatable process!
The process we all agreed on a higher level was Cooper’s Goal-Directed Design process. The details was to be ironed-out by experience as we ship more AI products.
For the Design System I was in charge of coordinating the project with multiple teams (researcher, product designers, visual designers, architects and front-end developers). We organized weekly working sessions that transitioned into design reviews as concepts had been turn into design guidelines, UI components and patterns.
We had a simple pipeline that would allow anyone to contribute.
- A story is created in Jira with a basic description
- A designer pick a story and start working in Sketch
- The designer share early ideas, design rationale and recommendations in Invision and gather initial feedback. More feedback was provided in the weekly design reviews.
- On consensus, designer documented specs in Confluence
- Front-End developer implement component in Storybook
“As the Design Ops Lead, JP helped the design team be more consistent and aligned across our products suite, and he established the foundation of the design system on which we continue building.”
– Gabriel Duford, SVP Development & Technology and Co-founder at Element AI