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What is Design Operations

During the last few months, when meeting with customers seeking to elevate their businesses through design, we’ve had many fruitful conversations about Design Operations (or DesignOps). What it is and how it helps businesses. So this blog in which we attempt to explain the term as simply as possible, is inspired by those conversations.

DesignOps is everything but design. Keep designers focused on the work, and let DesignOps handle the rest."

– Meredith Black / Design Ops Consultant & Industry Pioneer

DesignOps is inspired by the DevOps movement

The goal of DevOps is to combine the practices, philosophies, and tools that increase an organization's ability to deliver applications and services at high pace: evolving and improving products faster than traditional software development and infrastructure management practices.

Just like in DevOps, the DesignOps idea is to help designers focus on design by making sure that: 

  1. The design team has the needed tools, budget and political leverage to improve their work capabilities. (Business Operations)
  2. The workflow inside the design team and between other departments has a minimum amount of friction. (Workflow Operations)
  3. Individuals in the team have defined career paths, goals and rituals for the design team (People Operations)

Dave Malouf: DesignOps Handbook

Without Design Operations, there's the risk that designers will soon be too busy to design.

DesignOps also measures the impact of design

In addition to the three areas mentioned above, Nielsen Norman Group emphasizes the importance of measuring the impact. As we all know, the ROI of design is not always clear to the management especially in companies whose design maturity is low. Thus, tracking metrics over time and across projects is the only way to prove ROI and assure that the company will invest more in design. 

The role of the Design Operation lead

Design Ops means planning and managing design so the leaders in design operations are responsible for example in managing projects, budgets, and hiring. They are not necessarily designing themselves. Instead, they focus on improving the quality of the designs being produced by allowing designers to do what they do best: design. 

Design leaders who are making waves within the industry

It impossible to create a top list of all the talented design operations professionals in the world, but we picked a list of some inspirational design leaders who are making waves within the industry.

Who do you look up to? Give us a hint and we'll add them to the list!

Hale Okkonen
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