DesignOps: How We Make Human-Centered Design Possible

2 min readOct 18, 2021

A guest post from Fearless’ Director of Design Jordan Watts

What is DesignOps?

At Fearless, our design practice is known for two essential activities. The first is creating clarity about the problems people face. Often these are people that use or provide government services, or build and own civic and government technology. The second part of design is creating clarity for how we might solve their problems. We do this through research, prototyping, and other methods.

At Fearless, our customers work with us because of our ability to create the conditions for human-centered design. With our DesignOps, we are answering questions of scale. How do we conduct and share research across teams? How do we maintain a consistent style and interaction principles across applications?

DesignOps offers the benefit of:

  • Making design cost-effective, reliable, and efficient.
  • Helping to integrate design with other practices (such as Agile Development)
  • Scaling design across teams and organizations

DesignOps stand for design operations. It comprises your design principles, process, tools and even staff. DesignOps sets the conditions for how your team designs products and services. The way you manage these elements will decide how effectively your teams can scale.

Good DesignOps doesn’t guarantee good design. But bad DesignOps limits even the best designers.

How does Fearless manage DesignOps?

My first project at Fearless was the modernization of When I started, user research was a slow process. It took weeks to identify the right participants, multiple emails and phone calls to schedule a session, not to mention the time to plan and run the session.

To speed up the process, I looked for ways to improve our DesignOps. First, I used a screening product called tool to help identify research candidates from visitors to the site. Then I looked for processes that I could remove or automate, like scheduling and test moderation.

After I changed our DesignOps, if the team had a question about the usability of the new feature, we could get answers from real people in days, and sometimes hours, instead of weeks. This allowed us to make more informed decisions about what we released, because we had a better understanding of what our users valued, without delaying agile delivery.

Examples of DesignOps principles

  • Design the end-to-end service
  • Write in plain language
  • Design for progressive enhancement

Examples of DesignOps processes

  • Testing the usability of a product
  • Reporting research findings
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Developer handoff




Hi, we’re Fearless, a full stack digital services firm in Baltimore that builds software with a soul.