The 4 Pillars of Any Design Process

The 4 Pillars of Any Design Process

Establishing your design process is key for any kind of company. Some companies will have their own way of doing things — sort of the way things have always been done — and while I don’t have any issues with this, it’s important to ensure that there is at least some form of design process that is being followed.

Design processes evolve depending on a lot of factors — the size of your team, the managers or the value the organisation places on design, the urgency of the project and the volume of tasks that need to be taken care of.

Regardless of these factors, there are certain cornerstones of any design process that I’ve found to be absolutely essential. You can take these pillars and expand on them, but without these 4 things in place your product can suffer. However, with these in place, you can always be sure that your product designs have followed a logical process.

Here are my 4 essential cornerstones when it comes to establishing a design process.

1. The Idea Phase

When someone comes to your desk with a great idea, where does this idea go? It’s obviously important to have some kind of record, but at the same time you don’t want to break your flow and concentration. So what is the best strategy for dealing with people’s ideas as they come up?

It’s important to not get distracted with shiny ideas when you’re in the middle of a design phase.

There is a place for shiny new ideas, it’s called Google Docs. My approach is to keep a Google Doc or Spreadsheet with any new product ideas. Then, when you’re planning the product roadmap, you can pull up the sheet of ideas and decide which ones to write stories for.

2. Sharing Designs and Iteration

So whether you use Sketch or Photoshop, you will need some way of sharing the design files with the relevant people.

Figure out the best way to share design assets across your team. Do you need a way for people to add comments in their own time? Or is it possible to get people together to review at the same screen.

I’ve found adding animations to a slide deck to be very effective in the past, this way I can talk people through what is happening while they get the visual of how it should look. This will then open the arena for questions and feedback.

In my experience, adding images to Jira tickets is ineffective (unless they are the final signed-off design and it’s part of the handover with developers, but more on that later). Tools like Invision or Marvel allow you to create a click through prototype and even add animation. This way, managers or developers can get an idea of the interaction patterns you have used, and the sequence of events. The added bonus with using Invision or Marvel is also that other people on your team can add comments if they want to.

This is the step in the process that allows for feedback and iteration.

3. Testing

Most places do testing nowadays which is great. If you’re not watching an actual user take your product and discover it for themselves, at best you’re a graphic designer. Please take the time to watch at least someone not from your team use the product. If you can’t take it to Starbucks, you could find someone from finance or HR. The only thing that matters is that you can test it and get feedback.

4. Design QA

There is a tech QA, so there should also be a design QA. I’ve experienced new releases being shipped before that were not what was originally designed. Developers are under pressure to release something, mangers are under pressure to release something — this will always be the case. As the designer, it’s on you to make sure every new release has been at least reviewed by the designer who created it. Take the 10 minutes and make sure the interaction pattern is what was expected.

So those are my 4 pillars of a design process. You can include other aspects if you wish. You may like to use more time spent on ideation or design iterations, but if you don’t have these 4 steps in place your product can suffer.

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