How we work

As designers at Truss, we have a wealth of opportunities to both learn and deepen our expertise of good design practices, as well as teach and share these practices to fellow Trussels and our clients.

Table of contents

  1. Sharing with and learning from our design teammates
  2. Bringing design perspective to Truss committees, guilds, and working groups
  3. Representing design in sales scopings and proposals
  4. Designing with teammates and clients on projects
  5. Sharing good design practices company-wide

Sharing with and learning from our design teammates

More brains are better than one, so we take every opportunity possible to share with and learn from other designers on our team. We meet for an hour every week to talk through team developments or trainings, share work, or run a workshop together. Our agendas, who’s facilitating, and ideas for future huddles are all in πŸ”’ this spreadsheet. Our past huddles’ recordings are in πŸ”’ the same folder.

Critiques and share-outs
We regularly share in-progress work for feedback and to learn from one another. Sometimes these are more formal critiques, and sometimes they’re just to share something interesting that might be useful to others. Past sessions that we’ve recorded can be found below:

  • πŸ”’ Organizing research with Airtable
    by Monica; June 2019 - Monica shared how she tagged and organized research for the CMS-West project using Airtable.

  • πŸ”’ MilMove design tooling workflow
    by Derrick; June 2019 - Derrick showed us his proposal for a new toolset and workflow for the MilMove design team.

  • πŸ”’ MilMove training materials
    by James; July 2019 - James walked through his process for creating training materials for users of MilMove and shared drafts of in-progress documentation.

  • πŸ”’ SABER discovery roadmap
    by Karen; July 2019 - Karen walked through the roadmap she designed in Miro to kickoff the SABER project and outline the Discovery and Framing period.

  • πŸ”’ Design method cards
    by Mariesa; August 2019 - Mariesa shared her first draft of method cards for commonly used design activities and workshops.

  • πŸ”’ Intro to GitHub
    by Josh; September 2019 - Josh took the team through a simple GitHub workflow so folks could get more familiar with a tool used widely across the Truss org.

  • πŸ”’ Outcome-based roadmapping
    by Monica; December 2019 - Monica shared how the team on EASi transitioned out of the discovery period and into delivery by aligning on strategic outcomes using lean value trees.

  • πŸ”’ Code for America workshop
    by Carmen and Monica; February 2020 - In preparation for the Code for America conference, Carmen and Monica walked us through their draft workshop, Practical Design Thinking and User-Centered Design for Moving the Needle in Government.

Bringing design perspective to Truss committees, guilds, and working groups

Truss has a number of πŸ”’ auxiliary groups where you can lend your time and expertise to help improve the organization. You can easily find these groups by searching β€œc-” for committees, β€œg-” for guilds, and β€œwg-” for working groups in Slack.

Here are some examples of the committees, guilds, and working groups designers have joined or contributed to in the past:

#c-tdr: Amanda and Jesse (our former head of design) both managed the TDR committee, shepherding decision prototypes to acceptance (and sometimes rejection). A few TDRs have been explicitly for the design practice, including ones that founded the practice (πŸ”’ 0021), made a11y training available (πŸ”’ 0083), and established section 508 training (πŸ”’ 0116).

#g-frontend: Josh, James, Shauna and others from the design practice have participated in this guild which provides a collaborative space to learn and discuss best frontend development practices.

#g-accessibility: An excellent example of a cross-practice guild for all who want to improve our individual, project, and company-level capabilities to produce highly accessible software and practices.

#g-content: Sees mostly designers and a fair number of other practices gather to grow and bolster our content design capabilities. They also are a great example of our πŸ”’ Guild Shared Leadership Model.

#wg-covidwriting: In the early throes of the pandemic, Ryan B and Kate both jumped in to help on a short-term project to formalize and publish our best practices on distributed work.

Representing design in sales scopings and proposals

We are fortunate to have a business development team that prioritizes practitioner participation and input in the sales process. All scoping calls with prospective commercial clients include a member of the design team so that we can ensure someone from the practice can vet the opportunity, understand the needs of the client, help determine staffing, and assist with writing the proposal.

Monica helped our business development team design a more πŸ”’ streamlined user flow that details every client and internal touchpoint from the prospect stage to getting the deal signed. The πŸ”’ Involving Trussels in Sales Playbook outlines exactly when designers get brought into the sales process, what the expectations are, and the current list of folks who are designated to assist with this effort.

We’ve also developed a πŸ”’ design-specific scoping guide that details what makes a good project and what questions we should be asking the client in the scoping call to ensure it’s a good fit.

Designing with teammates and clients on projects

There is no β€œtypical” project here at Truss, so there is no β€œtypical” design playbook to run one, but there are some practices we hold near and dear, which we’ve started to formalize below:

Team norming
Every new project is a new problem to solve and potentially a brand new mix of people to solve it with β€” which is why we care so deeply about team norming and building a foundation of trust. πŸ”’ Here are some of our favorite activities to get to know each other, understand working styles, and norm on how we’ll work together.

  • BICEPS: Understand what is important to each person working on the project and what motivates us.
  • Superpowers and kryptonite: Understand each person’s self-identified strengths and areas for growth/improvement.
  • Contribute, lead, learn: Understand the work areas each person wants to contribute to, lead, and learn more about.

We’ve also found it helpful, as an output from these activities, to develop more πŸ”’ formal workstreams for everyone on the team that detail what they’re responsible for leading, who they will collaborate with, and any potential risks.

In addition to these activities, it is also critically important to discuss with the entire internal team how decisions will be made, who will be involved, and how they will be documented. Truss has a robust practice of using decision records to document decisions on both a company and project level.

Discovery and framing
We regularly push clients to include a Discovery and Framing (D&F) period at the start of each project to ensure we are all aligned on user needs, business goals, and stakeholder priorities before we settle on a solution. If there is a common thread in almost all of our projects, it’s this, and as designers, we’re often leading the charge on this effort.

We think of D&F as a three-phased approach:

  1. Understand the problem space
    • Onboard to D&F mindset
    • Align on access and tooling
    • Have a pre-mortem and talk through anti-goals
    • Review past research and identify assumptions and gaps
    • Map current workflows
    • Map stakeholders and their scale of influence
  2. Conduct stakeholder and user research
    • Write interview scripts
    • Recruit, schedule, and conduct interviews
    • Synthesize information (create/update user archetypes, user needs, pain points, journey maps, service blueprints, etc)
    • Collaborate with stakeholders to prioritize needs and create experiments roadmap to test ideas
  3. Experiment with potential solutions
    • Run design studio sessions with stakeholders and users
    • Design low-fidelity prototypes to test with stakeholders and users
    • Synthesize findings and share recommendations
    • Create an outcome-based roadmap and project plan to move forward

While every project approaches this work a little bit differently, there’s value in having a shared library of resources to pull from. While it’s still in progress, we have the beginnings of a πŸ”’ Project Kickoff Miro board with easy-to-copy templates for many of the activities listed above. Additional resources can be found in the Resources section of this playbook.

Sharing good design practices company-wide

In the life cycle of Truss, research and design is a relatively new practice, so when an opportunity presents itself to share design practices and work with the entire company, we take it.

Every Friday after our practitioner (full company) meeting, there is a 25 minute slot open for any Trussel to present on a topic to the rest of the Truss team. Below is a list of recordings of past One Topic Talks done by members of the design team: