If you were to ask 100 people what design means, you would probably get 100 different answers. There is nothing wrong with that—in fact, it is downright intriguing—but it shows how obscure design can be and why most designers are no strangers to having to advocate for design. So much of what we do is inconspicuous that people do not understand it, and, with that, the value of design is lost on them. Here at Button, we are laying the foundation in which design is not just about pixel-pushing but a Swiss Army knife in building great products. This is where the need for promoting design internally comes in—we need to effectively change how design is valued and strategically leveraged. For us, that means making design relatable and easy to understand, as well as creating a robust team identity that the design team can consistently stand behind.
How we do it
- The Deets
As designers, we can nerd out over an app’s clever design of a UI component all day. But since design touches many different parts of our lives, for both designers and non-designers alike, we wanted to speak to our fellow Buttonians in a way that makes design approachable and relevant. Thus, the idea to launch a monthly design newsletter, The Deets, was conceived. The Deets is a design-focused roundup of things like design trends, design best practices, inspiration, and tips & tricks. Each designer is responsible for publishing an issue, so we give ourselves freedom to choose a different theme every month and what we would like to share. Below are a few example themes from past issues of The Deets (nothing work-related here!):
- The dark side of design—how the use of dark patterns, or deceptive designs, are everywhere
- Design that unites us—how to design inclusively
- Design and mental health—how design can create a positive impact on mental health
My absolute favorite part of this newsletter is how our readers connect with the content. Given the mental (and certainly emotional and physical) stress that COVID-19 has brought on, one issue was dedicated to design and mental health. In the newsletter, we discussed colors that evoke different emotions, how to design a calming space, various stress relieving activities, and even animations that help calm the mind. We have received a ton of positive feedback about our newsletters, and it gives us a lot of joy to be able to promote design in a way that resonates with fellow Buttonians.
- Button Design System
Like many organizations, Button built the for sustainability and consistency. It is a tangible, valuable result of a large undertaking between Design and Engineering. The benefits of having a design system are many to those who work closely with it, particularly around reusable components and how it translates to our products, but it is important to note the less obvious: we also unveiled our new color palette, typography, iconography, tone of voice, illustration icons, and product marketing visuals, which touch at least one part of every Buttonian’s work. We have a well-documented repository of how and when these materials should be used, one that provides an easy way for any Buttonian to download assets as necessary. Here, we define what the Button brand is, and everyone has a stake in it.
- Research and Design (RAD) Group
In the spirit of creating transparency and alignment, Design partnered with Data to establish a monthly forum, the Research and Design (RAD) Group, which all Buttonians are encouraged to join. The goal of the RAD Group is to raise awareness about the importance of data, research, and design thinking. It is a forum for knowledge sharing and participants are encouraged to ask questions and help foster a community of learning.
For both Data and Design, a lot of invisible efforts happen behind the scenes. Specifically for Button Design, throughout the end-to-end process, we think about different facets of design like user research, information architecture, interaction design, visual design, user experience, etc. We are intentional about our design as we consider who we are designing for, why we are designing, what the use cases are, what our assumptions might be, how to organize complicated information, how a certain animation might work…and the list goes on. Sure, sometimes it may be as straightforward as slapping a little blue button onto that new screen, but it is often a more complicated process that delivers results. We promise there is a method to our madness, like how we reduced the bounce rate of an interstitial screen by more than 50% by using engagement data to inform the redesign. Such partnership between Design and Data is fundamental to the success of our products and we strive to communicate that through the RAD Group.
By sharing what kind of design and research we do and why we do it, we hope to demystify the design process and bridge the gap between Design and fellow Buttonians. Below are some example topics we have shared:
- Design iterations and prototyping
- A/B testing
- Inclusive design
- Color theory
- Qualitative research
It is important to note that the forum agenda is deliberately flexible. We solicit ideas and curiosities from Buttonians, and it has been interesting to see what kind of questions non-designers have about what we do. For example, one question was around how the design team conducts user research. And that is precisely the point. Outside of our day-to-day work, there is no opportunity for most of our peers to get a deeper dive into what Design does.
The more we share, the more invested in design, research, and testing people become, and the more allies we have to help us instill a design-focused agenda.
- Design team identity
As a small design team, we have the advantage of speed and efficiency—we are well-informed on each other’s work progress, we can easily pivot and take on changes, and we can quickly provide direct and thoughtful feedback on each other’s work. However, we also face the very real challenge of having limited presence. It can be hard to feel the impact of design on the business, and even more so during the new remote reality. In an effort to define our identity to the broader company, we recently unveiled the new , which illustrates the collective characteristics that we hold dear as a design team.
Our team branding creates a sense of solidarity—we are a herd, a pod, a team—and a guiding post to rally around. It is a foundation from which we develop a collective, shared understanding of who we are as a design team.
- Button Design principles
While we are scrappy as a design team, we try to instill as much systematic thinking and consistency into our design as much as we can. Every designer has a slightly different idea of what good design means to them. This definition is heavily influenced by the users we design for, and the complexity is compounded even further when each designer designs for different sets of users. To create consistency across each product we touch, we came up with the above four .
They help remind us what we collectively agree to be the most important principles when we encounter tough design decisions. They help clarify what is important and what can be de-prioritized. They define, for us and fellow Buttonians, what good design is at Button.
Why this matters
What all of these initiatives ladder up to is the start of something really cool: a culture of design. Yes, design culture is a buzz word, and that can be intimidating, but let me rephrase—what it really means is how much design is valued and embedded in an organization. Not every organization is the same. What works for us may not work for others, and vice versa, and we are always trying different ways to put design front and center. (In fact, we have a fun little surprise in the works!) And that will never stop, just like how design is never really done.
For more articles from the Button design team, check out the .