On April 9, UX San Antonio met online with Frank Aguilar to talk about the design process. Aguilar has worked with Amazon and Disney, and is now Creative Director at RevUnit. Through his valuable experiences at these companies, he’s come to methods that are tried and true.

What the words mean

Design systems, methods and processes include everything that helps teams through the design process for products. Design systems, just like everything in UX/UI, are about the user. Who is going to be using the system, and why? How might we support teams in their creation processes?

This includes values, beliefs, and structures, as well as tools and design guidelines.

The design system is the set of guidelines, tools, colors, fonts, and reusable patterns used by the team to create the website or software product.

The design process is called different things by different teams depending on their requirements. But ultimately, the stages are the same and are generally called Research, Empathize, Create, Test, and Develop. Some will list these but group them into four steps, and others in six steps, but basically the same type of process occurs.

The design method is the approach. It offers clarity and ways to achieve results in the different steps of the design process.

Different kinds of methods for the design process

There are many different kinds of design methods. Some of the most popular are agile, scrum, and waterfall. Agile is the method we talked about in April’s meeting, and its main concept is its focus on iteration and speed. Sprints are very central to this design framework. The team runs a design cycle, finds ways to improve, implements them, and then runs another cycle.

Sprint structures

Aguilar talked about a sprint structure using an example from his time at Disney where they used the agile method. At the beginning, the design team focuses on their design brief and charette. The brief includes the project’s purpose, its user and business needs, and data. It’s a “living, breathing document” as Aguilar says, which means that it’s not set in stone and can be tweaked as the project goes on. A design charette is a design workshop where teams brainstorm and prototype, searching for insights related to their project.

The next stage is about user validation. Some kind of prototype is shared, regardless of how high or low fidelity it is. This is where users share their perspectives and teams take the findings from these interactions to see what needs to be improved.

Finally, the team moves onto the tech review, where they show the developer team their concepts. Developers give them feedback concerning what needs to be rethought and what works.

A similar sprint structure comes from the book “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” by Jake Knapp of Google – a resource Frank shared during his presentation. Their structure is map, sketch, decide, prototype, and test.

  • On Monday, they map, which means they decide on the questions they’re trying to answer, their goals, and their focus for the design sprint.
  • On Tuesday, they sketch to brainstorm and come up with solutions.
  • On Wednesday, they figure out which of those solutions they are going to pursue and turn into prototypes to be tested.
  • On Thursday, then build the prototype, and on Friday, they show the prototype to users.
Design Process: Map, sketch, decide, prototype, and test

The design sprint is a five-day process for solving problems and testing new ideas invented at Google by Jake Knapp, who shared his approach in his book “Sprint.”

Learning more

It’s really helpful to be knowledgeable about different design methods like agile when working in tech. The image above draws out a typical basic Agile sprint, which is a five-day process invented at Google by Jake Knapp, who wrote “Sprint.” Understanding how Agile affects the design process and how it scales larger or smaller for different projects is helpful. If you’re a new designer, take a look at some of the included resources to learn more about some common design systems and processes.