It all started with one question.

How can we support, timely, in context, decision-making while reinforcing the formation of a holistic, coherent, experience when users interact with our various touch points?

The question (or framed problem) carries a couple of key considerations.

  1. The recognition and will to facilitate decentralised actions and decisions
  2. The fact that ultimately, we want to support the perceived manifestation of a unified set (of products, capabilities, touch points, workflows, assets)

So how do we start tackling this in an efficient, scalable manner?

The orchestra and the jazz band

Looking around, you realise that most of us will have witnessed the manifestation of a unified set…..when at a live musical performance. 

It was interesting listening to Jim Kalbach (Head of Customer Experience at Mural and jazz bass player) at EX19, talk about how high level rules/principles are used in jazz improvisation to allow musicians, who sometimes have never played together, to align on the fly and play in a coherent, unified manner, while having to make individual, micro decisions constantly. 

One can oppose this to the strategy used in classical music (all eyes on the conductor – in most companies, the CEO – and the music sheets) which, although amazingly efficient (at least in the music world), does not facilitate the idea of decentralised decision-making, while embracing uncertainty and innovative approaches.

Beyond the rules of engagement and the compositional structure (head/solo/head, for example), there is a shared sense of ‘how do we want to sound like, as a band’, ‘what do we see as good’, that envelops and unifies the performance. And that’s this particular element that we were after…

The lighthouses

At a high level, aligning on what good is, would be an additional layer supporting our aim for flexibility, quality, efficiency when tackling the gigantic, messy, task of ensuring our users have a positive experience when interacting with our set of products, capabilities, touch points, workflows, assets. With our platform.

That’s what we set our eyes on when we came together as a Product Design team, with the Product and Marketing teams, to define our design principles.

For this we focused on the following:

To help validate, refine, frame our design principles, we used the following questions:

  • Can this be extended/applied to all design problems, medium, channels?
  • Can this inspire great design decisions today?
  • Can this inspire great design decisions tomorrow?
  • Is this (or should be) true to our team?

And the ideas that…

  • Good design principles help you say no
  • Good design principles are memorable
  • Good design principles aren’t truisms
  • Good design principles are broadly applicable

I will not detail the pain, tears, bribes that went into it, but we eventually got there.

And this was another critical milestone, on our journey towards design maturity at Medidata.

Address context with empathy

Understand the problem holistically; understand the users’ perspectives. Aim for solutions that merge both insights.

Signal over noise

Focus on what matters, when it matters.

Adaptability by design

Solutions that beautifully handle change and the variety of business and users contexts.

Coherence over consistency

Envisioning and implementing a unified whole for increased simplicity, clarity and efficiency, by basing our solutions on coherent models and patterns.

Communicate trust and reliability

We aim for trust through delivering quality. The robustness and performance of our solutions matter and should be thoughtfully crafted.