#FFF: Creating a meaningful design quality assessment framework

In today's fast-paced digital world, having a robust design quality assessment framework is crucial for brands and organizations aiming to make a lasting impact.

A well-structured framework enables design teams to consistently evaluate their work, ensuring that their output aligns with the brand's vision and goals. By identifying best practices that should be continued and uncovering opportunities for improvement, a design quality assessment framework fosters a culture of continuous learning, innovation, and growth.

Creating a Design framework from scratch

Let's face it – a quality assessment framework is only as thrilling and effective as the trust and engagement it sparks within the team. Crafting our very own design quality assessment framework, instead of just plucking one off the shelf, allowed us to add a dash of excitement and a sprinkle of ownership to the process. By inviting our creative minds to be part of the crafting process, we made sure their valuable insights, imaginative experiences, and design wizardry contributed to the framework's formation.

Customizing the system to our unique needs was key, not only to the objectives of having a system that actually provides value, but also to foster a lively culture of trust and never-ending improvement.

The power of collective thinking

Our journey began with a fantastic workshop where all the members of Chainlink Labs talented Design team and key stakeholders came together to ignite a creative spark. Apart from kicking off the projects and setting our goals, this lively gathering was the perfect opportunity to create a collaborative atmosphere for sharing ideas and blending insights.

First, we delved into an open conversation about the magic of design and the seven essential elements of graphic design. Why does design matter? What is good design? What is bad design? Is it a way to not be subjective with any of it? We discussed Design’s influence on a brand's image and how it can make or break a first impression. We analyzed both inspiring and not-so-inspiring concepts, extracting valuable lessons from each. This step was crucial as it allowed participants to express their thoughts, setting the stage for engaging discussions and building a strong foundation for upcoming activities.

In the second step, we ranked the seven elements of graphic design according to their relevance to the Chainlink brand. Each team member shared their perspective, adding their unique flair to the mix. This exercise enabled us to identify the most critical aspects of design for our specific brand and its use cases, and understand the collective vision of our creative masterminds.

Finally, we brainstormed traits of eye-catching and effective design, and ended up  jotted down keywords that resonated with our vision. We encouraged participants to think creatively, embrace diverse perspectives, and celebrate their inner designers. This step was essential in capturing the essence of what we wanted to achieve with our designs.

Searching for the perfect framework

After our fruitful workshop, we were left with two burning questions:What were we trying to express when we chose specific design principles or qualities? And then, how could we systematically organize those intentions?

These questions fueled the determination to find an appropriate framework that would encapsulate our design goals and provide a roadmap for achieving them. We spent quite some time doing research on quality assessment in all fields, and that’s when we stumbled upon the F3 (Form, Fit, and Function) framework, mainly used in manufacturing. This concept caught our attention as it offered a comprehensive approach to understanding various aspects of a part. Each element of F3 defines a specific aspect, guiding engineers in matching parts to needs. Form refers to the visual parameters, Fit to the physical interface, and Function to the intended action or performance of a part.

Categorizing design elements

Inspired by the F3 principle, we grouped our design keywords and traits into the categories of form, fit, or function. This categorization process was engaging and enlightening, as it helped us realize how different aspects of design are interconnected and complement each other.

We spent time discussing the rationale behind each categorization and ensuring that every team member was on the same page. This exercise provided a well-rounded approach to our framework, making it robust and comprehensive.

Introducing the #FFF Framework: Form, Fit, and Function

By adapting the F3 principle, we developed the #FFF framework. The name, which is basically the hex code for the white color, evokes a sense of clarity, accessibility, and simplicity. And of course, resonate with design geeks. We then created our custom definition, to make sure that it resonated with our needs, and that would awaken the sense of belonging needed for the framework to be successful. After some word-smithing, we landed on:

Form, Fit, and Function (#FFF) is used by the Chainlink Labs Design team to identify, describe andevaluate the characteristics of what’s internally conceived as good design. Each defines a specific aspect to help creatives craft and measure eye-catching, tailored and functional designs that match all kinds of business needs.

The Form aspect focuses on the visual appeal of a design, including its shape, size, dimensions, color, and overall aesthetics. The Fit element examines how well a design aligns with the intended audience, context, and purpose. The Function aspect delves into the effectiveness of a design in achieving its goals, such as communicating a message, guiding users, or promoting a product.

Establishing guiding questions

To make the #FFF framework practical and consistent, we established guiding questions for each element. These questions enabled designers to apply the same criteria when evaluating designs, ensuring a common language and understanding.

For Form, we ask questions like:

  • “Does the <design> have elements that could be potentially subtracted without changing the end result?”

  • “Does the composition and balance of the <design> enhance its readability, and would it pass an accessibility test?”

  • “Would the <design> be considered clean and satisfying if it would be shared by a different project?”

For Fit, we considered:

  • “Does the <design> feel like Chainlink, even if all the logotypes would be removed?”

  • “Is the <design> consistent with the established brand style guides?”

Finally, for Function, we questioned:

  • “Does the <design> successfully conveys the message or emotion that it was originally supposed to convey?”

  • “Does the <design> fit its target audience?”

  • “Does the <design> drive viewers attention / eyes intentionally?”

A Point-based Metric System

By this point, we had half of the system cracked, but we still needed to figure out one of the most important parts. How can we measure this? Having a clear ruler to track the quality assessment of the Design output was not only important to identify strengths and opportunities, but also to compile data that would show overall trends within the team.

To overcome this, we then developed a simple yet practical metric system based on points. Team members needed to apply a score of 1-5 for each of the essential parameters: FORM, FIT, and FUNCTION, using the guiding questions as references. The sum of the points would determine the final F score, with #F being the lowest ranking, #FF the medium ranking, and #FFF the highest ranking.

So, in short, aim for FFF, and let’s keep F only to pay respects (Call of Duty fans will understand the reference).

Implementing an automated spreadsheet

Once we concluded on the goal, system, and guidelines of the system, we needed to tackle one of the most important parts: its execution. It needed to be an easy, comprehensive, and scalable system.

After exploring some available tools and workflows, we decided to go to the basics: spreadsheets. We created an automated spreadsheet that calculates the F ranking based on participants' responses. This tool has made it easier for our team to assess designs using the #FFF framework consistently, as well as minimizing the time needed to prepare these assessments over time.

The Results: insights, growth, and a culture of excellence

Our experience with the #FFF framework has been highly efficient and insightful. By running the assessment quarterly, we gained valuable insights into our strengths and identified opportunities for improvement. This systematic approach to design evaluation provided us with the knowledge needed to refine our work continuously.

Moreover, the framework has contributed to fostering a culture where we genuinely care about what we do. Our team members are more invested in their work, striving to create designs that not only look great but also deliver exceptional results. By embracing the #FFF framework, we have unlocked our design superpowers and reinforced Chainlink Lab’s culture of excellence.

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