The process of creating our design principles

Mariana Morris

I'm very pleased to publish our first version of the OCC's design principles. This is a set of values and principles that guides our design approach, processes, and decisions for every project.

Coming up with these principles was a collaborative process. I wanted these design principles to be something that we built together and that captured what we at OCC believed in. The applications we design are complex, in terms of data and interactions so working as a team was crucial to make this work.

We were inspired by other excelent design principles, including the gov.uk's design principles, Facebook's design principles and Dieter Rams's principles of good design. For inspiration, you can find a comprehensive list of design principles on Jeremy Keith's website.

The following is the method we took to come up with our design principles.

Workshop
First, I ran a workshop with fifteen colleagues that included designers, developers, and managers from different areas of the company: Innovation Delivery (ie. custom software), products, design, support and training teams. Involving people from different areas and backgrounds was important to get different perspectives and ideas.

In this workshop, we discussed what we valued as a team when it comes to the design of our software, interfaces and user experience. We discussed what great design meant to us, what UX work would make us proud, and what design principles would work for us at OCC and for our type of work.

I divided participants into three groups of five. In the first activity, I asked each group to write on posts it notes characteristics of their ideal project, in terms of process and outcome. In the second activity I asked them to write down what they valued ("We value... because..."). At the end, each group presented their values to the rest of the room.

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It was interesting that each group came up with a very similar set of values. This meant to me that we were on the same page but we never made it explicit in a set of guidelines.

Collating ideas into a first draft
I then collected all the ideas into a document, identified commonalities, summarised the ideas and created the first draft of the design principles.

Collaborating and reviewing
The draft principles document was then shared first to the people who attended the workshop and then to the rest of the company so they could comment, contribute with their views and review the principles. We made a few iterations before we released this first version.

This was a good way of gathering lots of ideas quickly and get everyone to contribute.

The OCC's design principles is a living document and it is important that we revisit and update them regularly. I look forward to seeing this being put into practice and to developing it further.