HOW MY DESIGN PROCESS SAVES ME TIME
Here, I lay out the details on how I created my design process, challenges I faced, resources I live by, and how it dramatically reduces my time to design.
As part of my Master's program, we were prompted with creating our design process (above). Knowing where to start a new project can be overwhelming and difficult to plan. You may find yourself diving in, spending hours developing, and then ultimately scrapping your work because you didn't like the direction you were headed.
There are only so many project restarts that we can handle before we hit our threshold and give up altogether.
This is why we should take a good look at our design process. Creating a design process may not reduce 100% of your rework all of the time, but it removes the stress of not knowing where to start, or what to do. This alleviation creates room in your mind to focus on the pieces of the process that you are most passionate about (i.e., for me it is the design), while everything else becomes habitual. I will share two of my personal experiences with design process and the difference having stuck to it made.
If you want to hear my story, continue to scroll below. If you find blogs to be a TLDR situation, click here to navigate below to my recommended design process checklist and a list of helpful resources.
Two dashboards with two very different outcomes.
Dashboard One: Red Dead Redemption II
At the end of the summer, I published my Red Dead Redemption II (RDR2) Travel Guide dashboard. This was my final project for one of my courses and also doubled as the Travel & Vacation themed Iron Quest for August. Since I knew that the theme had to be about travel and I was using RDR2 as the source material, I was firstly thinking I could create the map from the game on a map of the United States. I came across this reddit post where someone actually did exactly this, and I thought it would be a great homage to turn it interactive with more elements of the game. From my perspective at the time, this was sufficient enough for planning and I was compelled to figure out how to create custom polygons to map to the United States.
I spent a week creating custom polygon shapes and when I finished and tried to add details, I quickly realized this was not going to work for what I wanted to do.
REWORK #1: The polygons looked amazing, but the redditor was trying to create a map that was connected, so it aligned to the game, versus everything being in its rightful location within the United States. I want to note here - there is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach, what it comes down to is that the reddit map versus my map had different goals, which yielded different results.
I went back to the drawing board (literally) and decided I was going to use latitude and longitudinal points to plot the locations on the map for accuracy. From here, I wanted to add details from the game and mesh them together with the real-life location to act as a "travel brochure" that you could take on your trip. At this point, I was hitting the due date for my final presentation and had to submit the final product.
REWORK #2: I received feedback that the scrolling broke up the view too much and that caused problems for a viewer to see everything without having to scroll up and down. I needed to recreate the "brochure" and size it down, which then changed it from a brochure, to a "travel summary".
REWORK #3: Because I had to change the brochure to a summary, I had to edit the narrative throughout to make sure that it still made sense now that the intended goal of the dashboard was slightly different.
After this final rework, I officially finished! Or I was so exhausted by week three that I decided I was done regardless and any other feedback would be something I'd take forward into the next project.
My key takeaway from this experience was that I realized jumping directly into the design, which I find the most fun was the downfall to my design process and the cause of my rework.
Dashboard Two: Jacob deGrom
September/October was another Iron Quest and the theme was Sports Heroes. I always wanted to create a visualization on Jacob deGrom, my favorite pitcher of all time and now I had an excuse to do so! I also started a new course and this one opened, by forcing us into thinking thoughtfully about our design process. It was an insightful exercise that helped me use my time more efficiently when developing this dashboard.
I found with the RDR2 dashboard that I didn't do enough research and preparation of my narrative, which was the reason why I reworked it as many times as I did. If I had spent even just one more hour thinking about the data, I am certain I would have realized the polygons were not going to work, but all my mind was thinking at the time was "ooh custom polygons, this is going to be sick!". So for the creation of this deGrom dashboard, I now had my process formally written out because of my assignment and I forced myself to stick to it; to...the...letter.
There were times when I was so frustrated by my process because all I wanted to do was get to the fun part, the design.
If there is one thing left for me to tweak in my process, it is creating a balance between non-design elements, and design elements because the order in which I have everything now was extremely effective, but at times it felt draining because I was less energized by the fact that I couldn't yet work on the design. I don't think a design process will ever be fully completed because we are always changing and growing and our process should change and grow with us.
Back to the deGrom dashboard though, there isn't too much else to tell; it took three weeks (the same amount of time as the RDR2 dashboard), mainly because there was a lot more complex data in this visualization, but I did not have any reworks throughout this entire dashboard.
I did not have any reworks throughout this dashboard, because I followed my process.
Yep. So crazy, I said it twice!
Both dashboards were completed over three weeks, but you can see from my work boards in Figma how different they looked from an approach perspective by the end.
To conclude: take some time to think about your design process.
You can use the checklist below as a stepping off point for yourself to define what you do already and where you may be hitting areas of inefficiency. I've also included four resources that speak to design processes. Atomic Habits is less about the design process and more about efficiently executing it through repeatable lifestyle habits.
Storytelling with Data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic
Storytelling with Data Podcast by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic - Episode 2
The Functional Art by Alberto Cairo
Atomic Habits by James Clear