Design Ops

🚨 This site is being made in public. You will find editing notes and placeholder content. I like making in public, more liberating than an eternity of hiding in a Google Doc.

I’ve been working in Design Operations since 2018, previous to this my roles transitioned from UX Producer, Digital Project Manager, Brand Project Manager and Client Services. They are pretty much all the same – supporting makers in the field of design and technology. Today I believe that Design Ops roles and the work carried out should always be to fit what the team, makers and business need right now. Fit the work to the context and challenge.

These pages are here to capture useful information, documents and workflows. A reference guide for myself and hopefully anyone else that has a shared need or goal.


What is Design Ops?

📚Areas of a design team that are 🛎Serviced to create ⚙️Systems.
These systems allow us to improve our 🧬Culture and define our 🚀Future.
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The definition changes depending on who you’re speaking to, and that’s okay. This is one I wrote in 2020. I believe strongly that operations roles are service roles. Just like an IT team who are ready to support you with any questions or issues you’ve stumbled on. Creating this mindset in a company is really important so teams get unlocked quickly and operations people learn more about what is going on.

Areas can be whatever your team calls things they do or need. For example they might have a ‘learning and development’ initiative, or it could be called ‘career development’. Operations people should map out the areas that design teams work within and create new areas that the business require.

Systems don’t have to be complex. A workflow, checklist, templates, tutorial, service journey or guide can all act as a system when they are put in accessible and connected locations within the team. Maintaining them, refining them and merging them are all really important to ensure the operations are healthy.

Once you’ve got things written down and the systems are being used, you can learn a lot about the culture the team experiences. Do teams feel liberated to work asynchronously and find solutions quickly? Do teams feel slowed down by taking on more process than design? Using research methodologies to get these insights helps operations teams refine the culture to serve people better and, again, fit what the business needs right now.

Finally, with these elements of service, areas, systems and culture all playing along together we can cast our mind into the future. Do we need to make our own tooling to solve a unique problem? What goals do we have to improve our culture? How can we make our systems simpler or remove them?


Design Team Areas

These will change based on your business. It might be that certain areas are owned by another team in the business or a role outside of operations. I believe it’s always important to partner up with others when working in any area, working in isolation will rarely give you insights that can help shape a valuable outcome.

Today, at Kaluza, I’ve defined eight areas that I can see teams working in where I believe Design Operations can support them. Having full coverage 100% of the time is a big challenge, so the mindset is often to focus in blocks of weeks on critical areas that will give teams the best value. For example, improving a mature design system when a team is unsure on how to progress in their career levels is a wasted opportunity. Partnering with design leaders is the best way to understand the priorities in the areas.

  • Team: Org Design, Recruitment, Onboarding, Skills Map, Learning, Rituals
  • Finance: Budget, Contractors, Equipment, Events, Learning
  • Tools: Software, Hardware, Infrastructure
  • Documentation: Business, Leaders, Goals, Design System
  • Projects: Ways of Working, Business Cases, Rituals, Activities, Deliverables
  • Program: Business Plan, Roadmap, Assignments
  • Reporting: Views, Projects, People
  • Practices: Research, Content Design, Product, Brand, Service Design

Content Design Recipes for Design Ops

Knowing where to start when writing is hard. Very hard. I don’t want these pages to written like a book but more like a practical set of resources that anyone can build on. I’ve got my rough notes and kits of parts from the last few years and started to try and build a set of recipes I can look at and use for each topic – here they are sketched out below