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UX leadership insight #1: Clear design drivers

Well, this post may seem so obvious for you. Therefore, it’s also a good starting point for the insights. I call "design drivers” the main principles that guide the design decisions in the team.

If you work as a design lead, you very likely need to write a list of design drivers that you want to achieve. And ultimately, you are responsible for all the decisions that lead to designs that fulfill these drivers. The design drivers must be shared and understood by the design team, but in particular you have to understand them first. If you don’t know where the design should be going, you’re doomed. I’m not going into the process of finding the drivers. There are lots of processes for that. Sometimes most drivers are simply handed down to you.

Expressing design drivers early in the project can be difficult. You may just have a hunch what you are looking for. If you, for example, want to create a user interface that feels like magic, it can be difficult to describe what that means until you see some examples of designs that match your intent. When you find that, instead of verbal descriptions you can show to the team what you mean. During the process, showing rather than telling what you are aiming at will create a shared and profound understanding of the design driver that could otherwise be hard to express. Perhaps, at the end of the process, you can rewrite the design drivers with much better accuracy.


Following design drivers consistently is one of the primary means for demonstrating design leadership. If you are decisive, confident and consistent with your decisions, the whole team will feel confident about the project and drive to the same direction. A design lead should never say “I don’t know”. You just have to make a decision when one is needed. Note that requesting more exploration on a topic is just fine – it may be that you just haven’t seen a good enough solution yet.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ralf_herrmann/


  1. I am helping a design student for her thesis work and we discussed the design driver. But I found that I somehow understand it as a designer but I actually haven’t read any publication talking about that. Do you recommend any?

  2. That’s a tough one. I haven’t seen any publication about this either. Maybe we should write one :-)

  3. Yes, please :p At least I found a couple of online articles by ex NRC people. Thanks. And thanks for the reply, too!


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