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Org Design for Design Orgs by Peter Merholz, Kristin Skinner

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Foreword

“The space between is just as important as the objects themselves.”

MY 10TH-GRADE GRAPHIC ARTS teacher had just finished tearing into my layout, complaining that my kerning was off, my margins were wrong, and my proportions were uneven. I was manually laying a page of text and images, and having just burned my hand on the waxer, I wasn’t interested in his advice. What did it matter if the top was off by a millimeter? There’s plenty of room on the page for the rest of the...

Oh.

It turns out Mr. Mackie was less concerned about my ability to follow his instructions precisely and more interested in my understanding of the relationships between the content on the page—the letters, the images, the whitespace. Without planning and proper attention, the effects can ripple through the work. I didn’t need to work on my kerning—I needed to get better at seeing the bigger picture.

This lesson stood out more than any other and has followed me throughout my design career. There is a distinct rhythm to content on a page, objects on a screen, and people in physical space. The sum of these interactions defines the success or failure of the design. As designers, we’re charged with solving detailed problems, and those solutions are often most powerful when balanced with a larger perspective.

I’ve often thought about design teams in terms of organization and operation—the structure and methods created to help designers do their best work. Designers who have worked both at an agency and in-house have probably experienced a few different approaches to creative problem solving. We’ve seen the tension between speed, cost, and quality. We’ve felt the desire to get design a seat at the table. And we’ve experienced the fear and opportunity once we’ve sat down.

The reality is that designers have never been in a better situation to make an impact on the world. Our methods and thinking are valued and respected. We not only make the things but we help create the strategy that brings the things to life. So now what?

We get better.

We get better at understanding business, the needs of people, the operations of our creativity, and the framework in which we find the freedom to apply our skills. We get better at being active partners to analysts, marketers, and engineers. We get better at building services and experiences, not just features. We get better at seeing the bigger picture.

This book finds itself in the right spot at the right time. It doesn’t take a place next to the piles of books attempting to define what is UX and what is UI. It serves to help create a framework for design teams to thrive. Peter and Kristin have spent years working with many designers, agencies, organizations, and companies, and have seen what works and what could work better. With the increasing growth of in-house design teams, design leaders need the right tools to build successful organizations. This book gives insight into methods for growth and support of design teams that are rarely discussed. It shines light in the spaces between problems, projects, and people.

We’re witnessing an amazing maturity in our craft. As we expand our opportunity for impact, we must get better at creating frameworks to support those efforts. This text is your start.

ANDREW CROW, HEAD OF DESIGN AT MEDIUM

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