DesignOps — freelancers secret weapon

Alexandru Giuseppe Ispas
3 min readApr 25, 2020


Being a freelancer, I have the opportunity to get involved in a lot of projects with different teams, different processes, different backgrounds, and so on.

Most of the time, as a freelancer I need to be a “social worker” if I want to win a project or even if I want to get buy-in for anything I might want to do in a project. Especially in my case, where most of my clients are not top 100 companies with budgets and design teams. There is still a lot of work to convince someone on the value of the design and how to measure it.

As Mr.Richard Saul Wurman said in the famous “Hats” issue of Design Quarterly magazine:

Understanding is the first part of communication. You can only understand something relative to something you already understand.

So, if a company leadership has a strong background in Marketing, then you have to understand where they are coming from and learn to frame design as a tool to enhance their marketing efforts, not the other way around.

Where social work as a practice of communication and understanding comes in place? Social work is a scientific profession which takes knowledge from other disciplines to guide its practice.

What do I mean by social work?

By its academic curriculum social work consists of seven core functions:

  1. Engagement — the social worker must first engage the client in early meetings to promote a collaborative relationship
  2. Assessment — data must be gathered that will guide and direct a plan of action to help the client
  3. Planning — negotiate and formulate an action plan
  4. Implementation — promote resource acquisition and enhance role performance
  5. Monitoring/Evaluation — on-going documentation through short-term goal attainment of the extent to which the client is following through
  6. Supportive Counseling — affirming, challenging, encouraging, informing, and exploring options
  7. Graduated Disengagement — seeking to replace the social worker with a naturally occurring resource

In a few words, these are the principles I use to design the relationship between me and the client. “The client” can be the marketing department, customer support, and so on. They are all clients. Probably I will elaborate more on these principles in another article.

Sadly, a lot of designers go the other way around.

Often times professionals in the design industry, most UX designers put UX in the middle of everything like the rest of the disciplines gravitates toward UX. You probably heard a lot of “UX is the voice of the user” or if you search for UX on google you find diagrams with UX in the center of everything. The truth is all products have a user experience, even if it is invisible and all products are designed, even if it is unintentional.

If we are still in the middle I guess our perspective is wrong. A more humble approach to keep us down to earth:

Let me explain why:

UX shouldn’t be deciding the best payment plans for new customers because “that is what their user research says” and Sales shouldn’t be pestering UX/UI to specifically “change the CTA button to a different color because it will really make it look special”.

The respect is in UX listening to Sales about how far they can go with discounts for first-time customers and the importance of making this offer stand out more than any current offerings, and in Sales listening to UX about the options they have to design eye-catching hero promotions and the advised Information Architecture for the level of message prominence Marketing requires or requested.

The challenge is to harvest the user knowledge your salespeople, account managers, and stakeholders already have in their heads and act as a middle-man.

A user’s experience is too big to be designed by a UX Designer, practicing UX Design. It has to be designed by everyone.