With design agility must come design ability


Why Agile UX is Meaningless without an Agile Attitude

This is an interesting post by Anders Ramsay.

I definitely think design agility is an important skill, I think it goes without saying that if you do not have agility then you are not agile, but I also think that design ability is also just as important for agile teams.

Sometimes when we need to produce ‘presentable’ wireframes to show a client complex interactions in an animatic we’ll spend some time polishing them up; but lately we have just been scanning in rough sketches. It makes it much more obviously ‘unfinished’ and definitely leads to looser design discussions.

Often when we need to resolve design issues that come-up ‘in sprint’ we will have a quick chat with the team and produce a 10 second sketch to facilitate the design solution, job done. This is design agility to me. It does depend on the development team having at least some design ability though – luckily at Caplin our devs are all cool techreatives at heart.

On design collaboration…

Obviously collaboration is a fundamental part of the design process, but this doesn’t mean that the whole design process needs to be collaborative.

As Tim Brown of IDEO discusses on his blog about ‘Design Thinking’ being a problem solving approach, I think the same is true for UX. There are the two sides of the process, divergent (creating choices) and convergence (making choices)… Analysis (breaking problems apart) and synthesis (putting ideas together).

The skill for ‘agile design facilitators’ is knowing when and where to collaborate. When to ask for input from subject experts, when to gain insights from users and when to open up for multiple inputs. But also knowing when to downsize and focus on synthesizing the design.

Collaborative design doesn’t need to lead to compromised design (nicely pointed out by Andy Rutledge) but both the designer and the organisation need to cultivate a culture of design and trust in design, the seven core perspectives offered by Brett Lovelady from Astro Studios distills this idea nicely.

As Twyla Tharp (author of The Collaborative Habit) says…

Collaboration can be internal – an act of listening to others and then having a silent, private conversation with yourself.

Agile attitude – yes of course but with design agility must come design ability across the organisation.

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2 Comments

  • In my humble opinion there is no such thing as true ‘design’, a creative process of solving a problem from scratch. Even though we may think we are designing something, we aren’t. Everything from the problem we think we are trying to solve, to the concepts we create to solve them, to the tools we use to implement the solution, are all products of evolution–gradual change over many iterations, based on environmental feedback. Agile is simply a concession of this point, and a process to take advantage of it (by speeding it up).

    • Duncan says:

      Thanks for your comments Sholom. Your thinking takes us to a whole other philosophical level.

      I think the word ‘Design’ has so many different meanings depending on context and background.

      The Wikipedia page on ‘Design’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design) begins with:


      No generally-accepted definition of “design” exists…

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