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The past few years have seen advanced digitization like never before. The discipline of UX has emerged as a fundamental element of the design process. In Part 1 of this UX edition of Business Perspectives, design leaders tell us what role UX plays in their organizations.


The discipline of UX design is evolving fast and is more in-demand by clients both internal and external. Have you and your organization adapted to this?

Adrian: We have experienced some confusion from clients around UX vs UI vs traditional design process and what roles and solutions stem from each. While clients focus a lot on UI, we often have to bring them back to UX, the reasoning and strategy behind the result. So for us the adaptation has been to double down on the strategic build of creative to answer the "why" and "who" and then move to the output as the "how" or "what".

We started developing our UX and UI design capabilities about 10 years ago. We saw an opportunity to bring our brand work and digital together to deliver even better results for our clients.

We've invested in furthering our internal understanding of UX design. It's wild to think that UX wasn't part of the core curriculum for design even just a few years ago, but the investment into understanding and building that knowledge has been extremely valuable to our design process.

Eight years ago we hired dedicated UX expertise to help q30 build a strategic view towards UX and have a dedicated person to oversee UX implications of a project from start to finish and also to mentor other design staff on basic UX principles and design best practices.

We approach all our projects (digital and physical) from the end user's perspective. And with this in mind, we do thorough research (discovery) and synthesis (theme and persona creation) at the outset of all of our projects. Whenever possible, there is user testing throughout the project and iterations of design solutions where applicable and possible.

In the last three years, we have consistently had a Senior UX designer on staff. It has become a part of our workflow and process for all digital products, and it is the foundation to everything. UX expertise is crucial for design firms to remain relevant and to develop digital products that can compete and contribute to achieving business goals.

How has the involvement of UX expertise changed the design process at your organization?

Adrian: UX expertise has enriched the client conversation around the design process. It can create touchpoints that non-designer clients can relate to and draw better decisions from. The creative process is often an opaque process for the clients, and so UX can bridge the gap in some respects by connecting business intelligence with creative intent to form a visual workflow that drives results.

We were designing for the web before the term "UX" came into being, so we continue to roll UX and visual design into a single category. As a small studio, we understand design as a single discipline — UX is one component for thinking about how an organization or initiative presents itself online. In other words, UX is a way to formally think about a project during certain stages. Design is considered throughout.

For us, UX design is no different from any other type of work. We approach UX with the same diligence we use to develop a place brand. Accessibility, ease of use, legibility and yes, delight, all need to be considered.

UX is part of brand development right from the start of our projects, so integration with the design process happens seamlessly. Personally this has led me to learn new tools and software like Sketch, Figma and Envision.

Integration of UX and UI in our practice expanded our offering. We think of every brand project as a digital project, so we start planning and designing our solutions with that in mind.

It really influenced our decision-making and had us hone in on the "why" part of the design process. It has also expanded how our organization educates clients. We're able to demonstrate how design decisions are actually best for people with great UX planning and monitoring. It resonates so much better than just saying this is what we do. We can show the impact that was made with our decisions in place which helps us to make more impactful designs.

All our projects with digital aspects now begin with UX planning and it influences our design decisions. Since we have had a well-developed UX practice, we have seen a significant increase in the size and volume of digital projects. We have also seen a trend where large digital projects are delineated into 2 phases — with Discovery and Alpha as phase 1 and Development and Delivery as phase 2.

It has become a lot more theoretical and informed. Whereas 20 years ago, the focus may have been more on the visual execution, nowadays our design decisions are a lot more evidence-based.

Part 2 of the article will focus on the intersection of the role of visual designers with UX designers and on the challenges of offering UX expertise.

Andrew Boardman RGD

Mangrove Web

I am a designer, artist, educator and small press publisher. As a creative director, my mission is to design a web that is more humane, that is crafted ethically, that is available to all visitors regardless of ability, and that is built using open source technologies. I also run a small, nascent and independent Riso-powered press, creating and publishing my own and other artists books in collaboration with others. My research interests include the history of vernacular typography and Jewish visual culture, as well as the strange and strained relationship between design and belief.


David Coates RGD

Ion Brand Design

Peter Scott RGD

Q30 Design Inc.

Peter is founder and principal of Q30 Design Inc., a Toronto-based branding, digital and investor relations communications firm. Peter graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design in 1983. For 8 years he worked as a Senior Designer and Associate at a Toronto design firm that specialized in investor relations communications and brand development. It was at this firm that Peter met his business partner, Glenda Rissman (now retired), and in 1991 they opened q30 design inc. Q30 has an excellent reputation in Canada both for the quality and effectiveness of their design solutions and their business ethics. With a growing client roster spanning government, energy, finance, sustainability and healthcare, we place an emphasis on universal accessibility and we are committed to helping organizations design and develop products and services that effectively and responsively address the real needs of their users. Peter’s strategic and design vision has been at the heart of many successful corporate communications projects for a wide variety of well-known public, private and not-for profit Canadian organizations. Specialties: Brand strategy, identity design and management, accessible digital design and investor relations corporate communications presented online and in print.

Stüssy Tschudin RGD

Forge Media + Design

Born and raised in Switzerland, Stüssy (he/him) was a Swiss banker by day and a graffiti artist by night. His passion for the creative ultimately led him back to school and toward a career as a graphic designer. He started his creative journey through Humber College’s graphic design program, where he graduated top of his class. He’s a conceptual and visual thinker and brings innovative and strategic insight to every project he oversees at Forge. A solid commitment to human-centred design is at the core of his design philosophy, which he applies to clients such as Apple, Four Seasons Hotels, SickKids and CAMH. His dedication to design and communication excellence led to Stüssy’s election to the Board of Directors of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD), where he served as President from 2014 to 2018. Stüssy is an Academician at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA), where he currently serves as Vice-President of the General Council and board member of the RCA Trust.

Meggan van Harten RGD

Design de Plume

Meggan Van Harten, RGD is Co-CEO for Design de Plume, an Indigenous and women-owned creative agency that designs inclusive and accessible solutions that resonate. She brings equity and accessibility to the heart of the business. Bringing a decade of experience in design to her leadership role, Meggan sets the vision for projects, establishes standards, and builds both business and client strategies that lead to greater impact. She recognizes the value that accessibility work creates for people, and projects, with proven results. She provides insight and implementation guidance for content writers, designers, and organizations looking to adopt accessibility into their core and ensures that compliance standards and real-world experience align in unique and innovative ways.


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Andrew Boardman RGD, David Coates RGD, Adrian Jean RGD, Timothy Jones RGD, Peter Scott RGD, Stüssy Tschudin RGD, Dzung Tran RGD, Meggan van Harten RGD, Marko Zonta RGD