What is Design Ops?

Design Ops

This article covers:

  1. Challenges a Design Team Faces
  2. Design Ops
  3. Why Design Ops Are Essential for Companies
  4. Companies With Large Teams Use Design Ops for the Following Reasons
  5. Why Are Design Ops Essential to Product Managers?
  6. Design Ops Pillars
  7. Design Ops Roles
  8. Structuring a Winning Design Ops Team
  9. Wrapping Up

When you need it the most, inspiration can feel elusive and out of reach.

When you’re uninspired or disappointed by your designs — or lack thereof — you can’t call it a day. Often, you’re working under a tight deadline, which keeps you awake late at night wondering, “How can I make this design great?

In this case, it’s probably a good idea to read some design advice from a true master. “Our role is to imagine items that don’t exist and guide them to life,” Christopher Stringer famously said.

Are you ready and excited to get started on your design project? 

When you’re stuck, a slight boost from this product designer’s quote can be the perfect way to start your day. 

The above motivational design quote is what you need to get your creative juices flowing and take your design process from a simple concept to a stunning creation.

The days are long gone when the design was seen as “nice to have” in most businesses. 

Design is now an essential component of successful companies, with companies seeing a 32 percent rise in sales and a 56 percent rise in shareholder returns. 

Well-structured design teams are the heart and soul of exceptional design that drives profits. This post will go through various design team structures and the best system for multiple sizes of businesses.

A design team can range from a single person working on design initiatives throughout an organization to a group of 50 designers. 

How do you want your design team structured? 

You can follow centralized, cross-functional, or flexible. Consider a design team organization chart that shows where the location of designers inside a specific group. 

In other words, a design team consists of a single designer or a couple of designers who play significant roles and use multiple tools and methodologies to reach a shared and specific goal. 

Building a blog, designing a mobile application, or any other design project can be a shared goal.

To craft amazing products or to successfully complete a project, you need product management software

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Challenges a Design Team Faces

In every organization I’ve visited, a design chief tells me that design is intricate. 

On investigating how the method works and breaks in businesses, I was quite fascinated by its results. I know firsthand that design is complicated, even at a company that considers it essential and invests in it.

What makes it so challenging? 

There are issues with the organization, the people, and the processes. Each appears massive in its own right, but when stacked together, they become intimidating.

I used to believe that the issues encountered as a design leader were unique to the company’s circumstances. Still, after speaking with several design leaders, I’ve learned they’re familiar with practically every team.

It’s reassuring to know that you are not alone in your struggles, and not only because misery likes company (though it does). If these issues are widespread, there’s a reasonable probability we’ll be able to find answers.

Are you the lone or one of a few designers in your company?

Is the importance of design being questioned by those in positions of authority?

Is anyone aware of what a product or UX/UI designer does?

The aforementioned sounds familiar, right? These are a few examples of the issues you may have faced or are currently encountering in your work as a product or UX/UI designer in an organization that isn’t design-oriented.

  1. Vision Impairment

As teams split apart to focus on different domains or aspects of a product, the product’s shared vision might become lost. 

Designers are particularly affected by the absence of a product vision since they require a North Star to guide their design methods.

Design leadership is required to articulate a vision that goes beyond sprint-by-sprint improvements. 

Some design teams make huge boards to demonstrate design style or to convey the tale of how their product will fit into their client’s life. Others make little videos to show how the product will fit into the customer’s lifestyle.

Product roadmaps likewise serve as a guide for teams. However, they only specify what teams must do and when. They don’t explain why to a corporation. 

Our work has purpose and clarity when presented as a film, storyboard, or another medium. With it, teams can maintain their goals.

  1. Isolation

We work in cross-functional teams with engineers and product managers as designers. 

Although it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from various viewpoints, obtaining criticism from other designers is critical to our development because it allows us to improve our craft.

It may be more difficult to strive for a high-quality design with only a few of you because of technical constraints or a lack of resources and time. 

Does it need a transition state?‘ or ‘Can’t we just reuse what we currently have?‘ are common questions. 

Without a strong cohort, it becomes tough and laborious to advocate all finer aspects without a muscular fellow. 

It would be best if you often made sacrifices since it’s easier to accomplish without them.

  1. Learning To Speak a New Language

Despite the importance of design to a company’s success, it’s uncommon to see a designer in a management position. There are several reasons for this, not the least that design leaders must learn to communicate effectively with executives

Statistics and analytics dominate the C-suite. This can be unsettling for designers because our work isn’t necessarily quantifiable, and that isn’t to say it isn’t producing value.

Designers must communicate the importance of a positive user experience and situate design within corporate objectives.

As a business grows, designers need help communicating in commercial terms. They must articulate the ideas behind their work to new executives and engineers and how it will help the company prosper. They can’t get bogged down in the minutiae of typefaces; they need to focus on enabling customers. 

Design Ops

Hiring top design expertise is difficult in today’s industry because of the severe competition. Bringing together a collection of experienced, professional people is only one component of the equation for success. 

To develop a successful product design team, you must invest in design operations, among other things (also known as DesignOps).

Integrating the design team’s workflow into the company’s larger development framework is referred to as design ops (often written as the single-word DesignOps).

This implies that the design ops function is in charge of planning and controlling the design team’s work and ensuring that the design effectively cooperates with product and engineering throughout the development process.

DesignOps (short for Design Operations) improves design and business value by optimizing design processes, people, and technologies. It revolves around, among other things:

Putting together a team with the proper abilities and a clear goal, avoiding operational inefficiencies like misunderstanding and silos, and – perhaps most crucially – creating efficient design workflows. 

Origin of Design Ops

Because DesignOps is a relatively new phrase, you might ask how it came to be.

Dave Malouf conceived DesignOps in 2014 after immersing himself in the field of agile software development, according to the Invision DesignOps Handbook.

Designers used to wear various hats in the past. They conducted UX research, produced UX stories, wireframed the site, and even coded the front. 

While this strategy may still be effective for select teams, it is ineffective at scale. This is where DesignOps comes in, assisting in coordinating teamwork and establishing clear structure and roles.

DesignOps, on the other hand, isn’t a solitary, ‘design-team-only‘ exercise restricted to design firms, and it necessitates extensive data sharing with other parties (especially software developers). 

Your designers can improve the quality of these interactions, focus on successful goal accomplishment, and free up time for other projects by following a set of best practices. 

In that setting, and inspired by other techniques (DevOps and Lean Startup), Malouf realized that the framework needed to comprehend what the team was building to work for users and UX and design teams. 

He dubbed it “DesignOps,” with “ops” standing for “operations.” 

According to Malouf, it is a blend of business, person, and workflow activities, “everything that promotes high-quality crafts, procedures, and processes.” 

As a result, DesignOps takes care of everything related to the design process and streamlines it.

Why Design Ops Are Essential for Companies

People want to know they’re working with pros when working with a company. Investing in professional design demonstrates to potential clients or customers that your company appreciates the professionalism and conveys a powerful statement. 

We have a single opportunity to make an excellent first impression, and hiring a professional designer can help you do so. Design is no exception to prudent investment when sustaining and expanding a firm.

It’s no secret that good design is good business.

As a result, practical design is not just linked to success but also to trust.

Companies With Large Teams Use Design Ops for the Following Reasons

  • It allows for seamless design collaboration between teams.
  • It is possible to comprehend how the organization’s operations work.
  • It is possible to improve internal procedures.
  • Teams have access to design frameworks and elements.
  • Designers can more readily concentrate on their tasks.

When a company is tiny, Project Managers or comparable professionals are in charge of the environment of design projects. 

However, it’s critical to have a dedicated and motivated team check into the details when teams grow. 

Ensuring the designers have the right tools, methods, and settings can improve their performance and help them produce better products.

Why Are Design Ops Essential to Product Managers?

Designers can be bold and push the product concept to new heights, which is fantastic. However, the product manager needs to keep things simple and avoid “over-design,” so you’ll have to be the gatekeeper.

A product manager owns the product vision, and their job in design is to ensure that the invention solves the problem that the product was created to answer.

It would help if you directed the design team to deliver the product’s value. 

When designers want to make something appear particularly remarkable, but an engineer points out that teams can deal with things differently, you can act as a mediator between engineering and design.

Designers can be bold and push the product concept to new heights, which is fantastic. However, the product manager needs to keep things simple and avoid “over-design,” so you’ll have to be the gatekeeper.

It would help balance what is reasonable and “too much” for the product. You are responsible for ensuring that all stakeholders in a company are aligned with the designs after you complete them.

Design Ops Pillars

The design may give you a leg up on the competition. Product teams must get the design right to create excellent experiences. 

As a result, sections always look for methods to simplify the design process to reach a similar goal, such as lowering bounce rates or improving conversions

Companies realize it’s difficult to change without changing the organization as their grasp of design grows.

Design Ops focus on the following vital pillars:

  1. Methodology and Tools

We want the team to have complete visibility of their work within and outside design, allowing for early feedback and alignment without scheduling meetings. 

We re-evaluated our toolkit and existing design processes and devised four efforts to improve our methodology and toolset for greater visibility and cooperation.

  1. Systems of Design

No matter your firm’s size, having a “DesignOps attitude” in your team is critical. In the long run, it provides efficiencies and more consistent work.

DesignOps enables designers and engineers to create solutions as elements of a larger whole while speeding up the design and development process.

DesignOps is about identifying transformative strategies and creating processes. It uses a Systems Thinking approach to ensure that the system meets expectations and does not spread inefficiencies throughout the enterprise.

  1. Culture of Design

This pillar focuses on providing our employees with the best possible working environment and ensuring their success.

Culture is the experience of working as a designer at your company.

Employees with a clear sense of how their efforts support the overall goal are empowered by an influential culture. This provides them the authority and agency to participate in ways approved by procedure, tools, and structure.

This pillar focuses on providing our employees with the best possible working environment and ensuring their success. 

To achieve this purpose, we launched two programs: ‘Delight for new hires‘ and ‘Design social.’

  1. Visual Identification

It’s not a revelation that good design has a business value; it’s a fact. 

Designers like Raymond Loewy, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., and Steve Jobs have argued for decades that good design directly impacts a company’s bottom line.

Businesses that invest in excellent design reap significant financial rewards. They also better understand their customers and make better business decisions due to the design process’s ongoing feedback loop.

On the other hand, great design can be challenging, especially when you need to give it in large quantities.

Many sectors of the organization rely on design to drive and lead efforts.

We want to concentrate on the future. Consider our product in two years and the type of team and culture that will get us there. Then work backward to strategically and operationally design that team and culture. This entails examining competency strengths, career advancement, attracting and retaining the best individuals, and creating a positive work environment.

Design Ops Roles

“These look quite similar to what many design teams do,” you might assume as you go through this list of activities. “Why do we need a distinct function for that?

And you’re quite correct: the actions outlined above aren’t new, and many companies engage in them under the guise of “design strategy.”

However, there is one significant difference: DesignOps is a dedicated team in charge of these activities.

Developing a Communication Plan

The design operations manager is a point of contact for the design team and the rest of the company. They promote the importance of designing and organizing team meetings.

The design leader ensures that product managers and a product development team are in the loop. 

DesignOps creates a system for storing and retrieving all of the files and resources that the design team requires.

Management of Operations

This function entails generating a clear design roadmap outlining the design team’s long-term goals and how teams can meet them. They also analyze and examine the design team’s headcount and identify skill gaps.

Taking Control of the Procurement Process

Collaboration with procurement to improve how the design team makes purchase selections.

Information Technology and Security

They are developing the design team’s technology plan and collaborating with the IT department to ensure that design tools are compatible and secure.

Designing a Procedure

DesignOps creates design systems and maps out the design tools that the team requires to plan and manage the design process. They lay the groundwork for how the design team should cooperate with product teams and other departments across the company. 

Structuring a Winning Design Ops Team

Design Practice management will evolve back to the essential elements and specialization of creative direction, design innovation, storytelling, and designer development in the next 2-5 years.

Design operations take on the job of design management.

We need to run the design organization like a business to succeed within the corporation.

A team’s unique difficulties and requirements must determine a DesignOps team’s structure. These different team structures show how different ways can help and allow DesignOps teams.


DesignOps is divided into a few individuals who manage or oversee specific areas of DesignOps full-time.


Other jobs (e.g., design managers) take on DesignOps activities as their day-to-day work obligations. “DesignOps” is probably not utilized as a phrase or structured idea within the company.


DesignOps roles are scattered around the business and dedicated to specific teams, focusing on team-to-team cooperation and alignment.


 DesignOps grows into its entity, delivering consolidated tools and activities that affect and benefit the entire design team.

Wrapping Up

Design Operations is a new name, but it’s just a new way to say what we’ve been doing since the beginning—taking a good product and making it more beneficial to its users. 

We ensure that all the right people work together on the correct problems. Honestly, that’s not so hard when you get down to it.

So, why is design ops this important? 

Designers and product managers working in tandem can build products that delight users and meet business goals. 

Product managers can concentrate on planning and strategy by ensuring operations are seamless.

Meanwhile, designers can continue to focus on the product experience rather than the nuts and bolts. And by sharing a common language, designers and product managers can work together to build the best possible experience overall.

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