Fully agile in mediocrity

Fjord Family

Agile development challenges for designers. A guest post by John Grøtting from Fjord for PAGE.

The design and innovation agency Fjord has published its trends for 2018 . They include seven developments that are expected to have a major impact on design and innovation projects over the next 12 months. One of the trends, Design Outside the Lines, explores the impact of agile development on designers. John Grøtting, Group Design Director at Fjord Berlin, explains what it’s all about.

Design crafts remains relevant in hectic times

Today, products and services are being developed faster and are being launched on a large scale. At the same time, there were never any more technological possibilities to implement something new. Many companies face these challenges with agile development. The method comes from software development and basically means that something is iteratively developed, tested, discarded, improved and brought to market in short cycles.

Agil does not mean ASAP

So far, so bad. Because for many companies Agile is synonymous with ASAP (as soon as possible). With consequences: The middle management suddenly wears sneakers, decrees Design Thinking for all and turns up the volume on product development. Too often, then, at the end, we end up with bad design à la painting by numbers.

This development has gained momentum, especially in the recent past, and is more than ever the work of designers.

What is certain is that Agile has led to better processes and tools in software development. But the best line of code, no matter how beautifully written, is of little use if it answers the wrong question.

And because software is an inseparable part of many products and services today, designers need to understand more than ever what Agile is all about. Only then will they be able to bring in the value that good design delivers. In my experience, good design helps to save 30 to 50 percent of the costs.

First the human, then the code

The main argument for striving for the best possible design even in agile development processes are at the hearts of the users. You need to beat faster when someone picks up a new product or uses a service for the first time. This is only possible if you have penetrated the problems that burn the user under the nails, and therefore provides an answer to the right question.

This can be mapped in iterative, rapidly clocked processes. The design discipline itself has developed methods to get digital products off the ground faster. These include systems like Google Material Design. Also, Airbnb’s design system is worth a look.

Designer and client in duty

In order to avoid being mediocre on a regular basis with new products and services, developers and designers must share the Big Picture and speak a common language. Both companies or clients, as well as designers, are here in duty. As designers, we should focus more intensively on software in the future, understanding the role of data, and staying alert to new development methods. For this, we need to seek collaboration with other disciplines – developers, data scientists, business experts.

Companies must support this collaboration in multidisciplinary teams and support not just design thinking, but design culture. At the same time, they should give designers the space and authority for their craft. Even an experienced design thinker is far from being a design practitioner and well advised to rely on their expertise.

We also have to take responsibility for this responsibility. The demand for design craftsmanship is changing – and curiosity is a top designer duty. This undoubtedly includes dealing with agile development and software development today.

This article was originally posted on page-online.de and has been translated from German. 

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