Design Principles

Today’s design teams have to move at a faster pace than ever before. The rise of real time everything has companies changing directions on a dime as they try to keep pace with competition and consumer demand. This forces their strategists, designers and engineers to innovate at a rapid pace.

The positive affect of all this has given deserved attention to things like iterative design and development processes and simple, focused product strategies. And, while the negative affect of this shortened design window varies depending the product or service, design teams face an increasing need to compromise in an effort to produce relevant products.

These compromises take shape in many forms. All too often, efforts in research are the first cut as business prefer to stake their success on what they already know about their customers. Other times, the development of proper design and visual patterns fail to reach maturation in the rush to get something out the door.

Whatever the case, compromise is a reality in design and designers often spend time compensating while trying to do their best work.

There are a few parts of the design process that should not be ignored. For example, it’s imperative that designers understand who they’re designing for and what problems they are trying to solve. One of the most effective tools for maintaining the vision for a project is through the use of design principles.

Design principles are the guiding lights that designers use to guide them along the way. These are the things they base decisions on, vet ideas against and inspire their designs.

These principles are more than just requirements or specifications. In fact, they are very non-specific in nature. They combine the structured findings of research with the best ideas that come from ideation sessions. Ideally, design principles are focused and catchy making them easy to remember and share with the design teams. Principles are used to determine which concepts to move forward with and help assist in making decisions during a project.

Every project should have at least one design principle, preferably more. These principles should be socialized within the design team, with your client partners and, most importantly, with your client or customer. They are a part of the design strategy for your project and should be referred to during the design process and at key review milestones. When challenges to the designs are raised, recall the design principles as a way to vet your ideas. While they are not hard and fast rules, they should keep people on track and reduce scope changes.

Design principles allow distributed teams to work together more cohesively. With a shared understanding of the vision, teams of experience, visual and technology designers can work independently for a while knowing that, when they regroup, they will be closely aligned.

The establishment of design principles at the beginning of a project encourages rapid iteration as it provides a properly constrained environment for the design work to happen. Having them in your corner reduces confusion, provides a point for reflection and guides you to design with confidence.

One Response to “Design Principles”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Harrelson, Razorfish Design. Razorfish Design said: Design principles are the guiding lights for designers. They help you vet ideas and inspire their designs. http://rzf.sh/9NKsev [...]