Tom, let’s start with you. Tell us how you define design language and why it’s so important to experience design in general.
TOM: Design language brings our brand to life across all of our products and experiences. It establishes the foundation, provides the continuity but doesn’t restrict creativity. It fosters consistency, which builds trust in our customers. This is what makes a really impactful brand experience.
Design language isn’t about style guides and rules, but more about creating a framework of experience design standards that promote unity across different products. It impacts UI layout and patterns, voice/tone, user input and product response, animation and more.
Jack, you’ve seen the evolution of our design language through a rebranding and the introduction of a slew of new products. What are some of the challenges in keeping a consistent language across different platforms and products?
JACK: The challenge is creating a system that balances discipline with freedom. By that I mean there needs to be rules in place so our experiences feel cohesive with enough flexibility baked in to allow the system to adapt to new trends and user needs. The goal is to inspire our designers to approach challenges with a common point of view, but still be able to express their unique talents.
Another tough aspect is scale. In order to create a functional design language, our culture and processes have to align. In a company of our size, that can be tough. We mitigate this by collaborating and encouraging contributions. When everyone is empowered to think like a designer, great things happen.
How does Xfinity XD define and create its unique design language?
TOM: We’re able to take complex problems and turn them into anxiety-free experiences. We have an evolving product personality, we have partners in brand… and we listen to our customers. All of this informs our guiding set of principles which our designers use to get up and running very quickly. From here, they can develop and enhance experiences that seamlessly fit into our entire ecosystem.
JACK: Totally agree. We give our designers a place to start with our Xfinity Design Standards site, our point of truth for high level principles and detailed components. We’ve taken the guesswork out so they can focus on designing products and features instead of buttons.
Let’s talk about the design language tool box. What’s inside?
TOM: Let me answer this by talking about what it helps enable… our skilled designers are able to take our design language, concept out possible solutions, and deliver experiences we can test and easily dovetail into our broader experiences. They’re able to develop a customer or a business solution either within the parameters of the language or by introducing something new to stretch the boundaries.
JACK: Right. When we get too templatized, that’s where we get handcuffed.
TOM: When we talk about design language, everyone thinks about fonts and colors and graphic elements but we’re really talking about the experience itself. The graphic elements are important but we also have voice, touch, gesture, sensors, sounds, haptics, etc. that are all a part of the toolkit.
How does technology impact our design language?
JACK: The more technology evolves, the more complexity it brings because we have to evolve at a pace that just keeps getting faster and faster. To me, this is the most compelling reason to have a strong design language in place.
TOM: I think technology has challenged designers, and designers challenge technologists. It’s a symbiotic partnership that empowers us to create completely new experiences.
Is design language a collaborative effort?
TOM: Absolutely. The design language is everybody’s toolkit. The reason we publish our design language is not just for a designer's reference, but as a way for everyone to see how we think, how we translate the essence of our brand with the customer always at the center.
JACK: And really, it helps everyone make decisions faster. A team can ask, does this execution align with our design philosophy? No? Then they need to rethink it. Yes? They can run with it. It’s a way of decision making that’s very specific and can easily work in a domain we may not have touched upon before.
Is design language a trend? And what’s the potential for design language in the broader picture?
JACK: It’s not a trend but a necessity. Successful products and brands are strongest when they’re a complete ecosystem. Having a consistent experience across touchpoints builds trust with the brand. The more we can remove the barriers to a clear design language, the more customers will be inclined to interact and enjoy the experience.
TOM: Things change. We’ll publish our design language this year, again in 2018, and we’ll take things away the following year. It’s organic and will continue to grow and shift as our products do.
JACK: Having the flexibility to evolve with new domains and trends, that’s what our design language gives us. It allows us that freedom but it will always feel Xfinity or Comcast.