Lessons learned at 2020 Design Leadership Camp

Greetings from Design Leadership Camp

I've just returned from an incredible week at The Bureau of Digital's Design Leadership Camp. It's a small gathering for design leaders around the world to have focused conversations, learn from each other, and recharge the creative batteries. I was lucky to be invited back for the third year, and I want to share what I'm taking away from this amazing group of incredibly talented folks.

Lessons learned at 2020 Design Leadership Camp

Design is a business language

The best path forward for design to continue to grow within organizations is for designers to speak the language of business, meaning pulling together the data and communicating the value of design across the org around. The energy and storytelling behind the great design are very real. However, connecting design elements to tangible business results is where the real value lies. Few design programs and fewer design teams take time to talk about the business impact of design in a quantifiable way. We need to have this conversation in addition to creating great experiences.

Design systems are for the devs

While the topic of design systems appears on the agenda annually, this year the conversation showed a leveling-up across the industry in how to think about and develop them. Design systems grew in popularity in large part from designer’s excited about the prospect of having more time for other product-focused work. The technical excellence and adoption of these design systems continue to sustain and grow within development teams.

Having spoken with many technology professionals about design systems and how to best utilize them in-depth, it’s clear that businesses need to invest in design systems as full products. As a result, engineering, product management, and product design work in a dedicated development effort. With a collaborative focus, the benefits of a more maintainable, more accessible, and consistent user experience through a design system are possible.

Manage your energy investments

Time and energy is a limited currency. Too often, people dedicate energy and time into ineffective activities. It's vital to take stock of where your energy goes. Good stewards of energy focus on initiatives and individuals who amplify that energy's impact.

Being intentional about how to spend time and energy is easy in theory, but requires discipline to put in practice. Finding a group with a shared purpose, headed in a similar direction helps. One of the best returns I've experienced personally is investing in the design leadership camp community, and in building a small community of other design leaders here in Chicago. The chance to be reflective and exchange ideas with others having shared goals is an incredible gift.

Lessons learned at 2020 Design Leadership Camp

Special thanks

I want to give thanks to this incredible group, Carl Smith and Lori Averitt, from the Bureau of Digital for putting on another amazing event. The event wouldn't be possible without the team from InVision. Aarron Walter, Eli Woolery, and Stephen Gates thank you for your continued contributions to the design leadership community. It was an amazing week connecting with familiar faces and meeting new friends with such fantastic experience they so generously shared.

Let’s connect

The camp is just the beginning. There are many more conversations to be had with this group. If you're looking to spark your next wave of professional growth, I can't recommend these events highly enough. I'm also always happy to pay it forward, so if you're a design leader looking for a sounding board, let's chat. We're all in this together.

Full Stack Friday: Past the pixels: Understanding service design

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