Design in an agile world

Friends - don't let this make your head explode, but what if design is never finished? OK never is a bit dramatic but what if design keeps evolving during the project, and changes are encouraged throughout?

Andrew Cox
Andrew Cox Lead Product Designer

Lovely people of the internet, for my first outing on the Ghyston blog I want to regale you with a tale of design processes and how embracing Agile might just be the best thing you ever do.

I’ve been a designer for nearly a decade now and working here at Ghyston for a little over a year. One thing that was a big deal for me when I joined was finding a design process that worked both for clients and for the company’s existing well-oiled agile development process.

How things used to be

So back in the times of our creative ancestors, how did the design process work? As I’ve realised while writing this post that is a massive question, maybe too huge for my tiny brain to fathom. The truth is a couple things: firstly everyone's process is different, secondly every client is different so you will have to adapt your process to meet their needs, some may say you need to be agile! (Quite proud of myself for that one). I also did a bit of crowd-sourcing and took to the world of social media to ask the good people of Twitter and LinkedIn what their process is.

Twitter! I'm interested in picking the brains of any of my designer friends out there. I'm working on a blog post about design processes and wondered if you could share your process with me?

— Andrew Cox (@CaptainCox) 20 April 2018

The response was about as serious as you would imagine (see the comment), so let's move on!

What's wrong with the old ways?

The problem is this:

The designer thinks they’re nearly finished when the client has only just seen it

Speaking for myself and my processes previous to joining Ghyston a couple things stand out:

  • It leaves little room for evolving the design
  • The client doesn't get as much involvement in the project as they deserve

These two things can spell big problems for a project, in the more traditional process clients get sight of your ideas at the beginning of the project, and then towards the end of the project when you present what you feel to be the finished work. There are usually amendments - the client sees the “finished” work and is free to comment and suggest changes. I use the term “free” quite loosely here as in a lot of situations these amendments can be limited by an approaching deadline or quite literally limited to a number of revisions that are allowed. This forms a bit of a bottleneck as this is the first time the client has seen the design, naturally they’re going to be full of questions and comments. This means it is all loaded onto the end of the project, the designer thinks they’re nearly finished but the client has only just seen it meaning both parties are in a completely different mindset.

What's the remedy?

It is simply getting involved in the agile process. The agile manifesto was published by some clever people back in 2001 and is a word that has been thrown around a lot since then. But behind the buzzword what does it mean for us designers - and more importantly our clients? In a nutshell it means better collaboration with our clients, which in turn means a better project for everyone. The clients are involved the whole way through the process, from the ideas phase through sketching up to the flat designs and beyond. This means most of the questions that used to come up at the end are coming up throughout the project and in most cases at the beginning so they can be worked on one by one with the customer - which makes for a faster process and the client being invested in design.

Andrew Cox
Andrew Cox
Lead Product Designer

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