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Hi :-)

Lean UX NYC, 2014

Jonathan Berger, Pivotal Labs

Towards a Theory and Method of Test Driven Design

Towards a Theory and Method of Test Driven Design

Subjective Design & Objective Design

Who Am I?

I. Subjective Design & Objective Design

"Design" is a Messy Word

I'm a "designer"

Modern "design" in the context of building products is a mix of many different design disciplines

Is design subjective or objective?

Can design can be objectively called "good"?

what are we judging?

If we can't agree on a definition of done, we waste time, money, and trust

waste != lean

We tend not to distinguish between

the types of design that are highly subjective and the types of design that are highly objective.


marketing and branding design has a high degree of subjectivity to it.

the design cannot be successful if the client doesn't feel good about it.


designing a usable user interface is much more objective

patterns exist,

solutions can be tested

we can state with a high degree of confidence that

one solution is (objectively) better


we tend not to distinguish between different types of design when discussing work.

when scoping design work

we often confuse the meaning of "done"

across various types of design.

(an aside)

II. Minimum Viable Deliverable

The design business is built around deliverables

Practice is about design decisions

"Getting out of the deliverable business"

The Agile Manifesto prefers

"Working software over comprehensive documentation".

To take it to an extreme

all documentation is waste

eliminate documentation entirely

eliminate documentation entirely

minimizing documentation is a Good Thing

designers ought to communicate design decisions with the least amount of work possible.

With Apologies

We are uncovering better ways of designing experiences by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value design decisions as the fundamental unit of work for designers. We prefer to communicate design decisions by:

(end aside)

expectations should be set differently for Different types of design

Designing a new logo and brand?

plan for several iterations of client approval

Designing a signup form?

"Done" can simply mean "a user can complete their goal"

To subject objectively-judge-able types of design to the approval of a non-designer client is akin to

demanding client approval from your dentist or surgeon.

III. Articulating the Subjective and the Objective

how can we address this problem?

A provisional scale for types of design

(and how subjective they tend to be)



Marketing / Communication Design

Product Design

Graphic Design

User Experience Design

User Interface Design

Information Architecture


The utility of objective and subjective judgement varies by type of design. Designers don't do a good job of speaking clearly about this. If we, as a design community can educate clients the spectrum of subjectivity vs. type-of-design, we can save ourselves tons of pain—and save clients mega-tons of money.


(one more thing...)

this sun, 10am-4pm

balanced team salon