Why are Design Principles Important to Critical Logistics?


Every other Friday we take a few minutes to share another way our user-centered design process helps us inject the voice-of-the-customer into our company culture, and improve the Airspace Platform.


I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record in meetings. 


Why are we working on this?


What's the goal of this feature?
To increase transparency.


What big features are you working on right now?
Making our service more transparent. 


Transparency is on my mind because I've had the privilege to get out in the field and see the problem a lack of transparency creates. I've seen how unclear communications from a logistics company created a situation where an aviation industry customer had no idea their package was lost. How many thousands of dollars went down the drain because they weren't told sooner, because they never had the opportunity to source the part from elsewhere? What if it had been an organ? What if the most the doctors could offer up to a concerned patient was a "Gee, we don't know where your life-saving kidney is, the damn shipper isn't telling us what's going on?"

Unfortunately, it's impossible to bottle up that experience and transplant it into every member of our operations, design, and engineering teams. What we can do is create a R&D culture that translates the complex needs of our customers into simple criteria for success. In practice, we call the criteria our Design Principles.


What are design principles?

At Airspace, design principles are statements that describe how the Airspace Platform and service should work. In general, there are two types of design principles: universal and specific.

Universal principles such as Jakob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design and Microsoft’s UI Tenant’s and Traps are based on years of research about how humans interact with interfaces. We evaluate our designs against universal design principles through heuristic evaluations to ensure new features are usable and intuitive.

At Airspace, we've also created our own specific design principles to ensure we always consider what's most important to our customers. Companies such as Google and Gusto use design principles to highlight areas that should be strengths or unique differentiators for their products. Our specific design principles help us ensure we're building the right thing to meet the needs of our unique customers.


How did we create our design principles, and what are they?

To craft our specific design principles the product team worked with the rest of the company using a lightweight process to gather thoughts on what the most important parts of the Airspace service are, and what that service should strive to be. By getting opinions from our sales and operations teams early, we were able to learn from the people with the most insight into the thoughts of our customers quickly. From there, we refined the principles and tested them with some of our most valued clients, including airlines, organ procurement organizations, and manufacturers.

Through the process, we discovered a huge range of things that make the Airspace brand great, but a distinct smaller set of principles to guide us on our mission to become the most trusted delivery network the world has ever seen. 


The Airspace Design Principles


Empower through transparency
Insightful and detailed communication opens the door to effective decision making and mutual trust.


Automatic when we can, superpowers when we can’t
We work automatically wherever we can. When we can’t, our tools should help users solve problems at light speed.


The right details at the right time — because lives depend on it
We surface precise information empowering users to make quick decisions in life-changing scenarios.


Thoughtfully considered & user-centered
Our clients span a range of unique industries. Our tools should be crafted for each user group through tone, visuals, and information.


Make old school solutions feel like the Stone Age
We aim to shatter old school methodology with efficient digital workflows. A phone call should feel like a last resort.


How does Airspace use design principles?
Airspace's design principles serve as daily reminders of what to build and how to build it. We keep the spirit alive through:


  • Posters
    IMG_5765            IMG_5764            IMG_5766
    The design principles are posted around the office, including in our main creative spaces. During a brainstorming meeting, the principles can help inspire a new idea that might lead to a better service. When someone is getting a drink of water, they might see the principles and be reminded of what the Airspace service means to our clients.


  • A rubric for decision making and design evaluation
    We use design principles early in our process as a tool for determining what to make next. It's not the only tool, but it's a reminder of what's important to our brand and our customers. Throughout the design process, we use the principles as an evaluation tool. We ask, is this transparent enough? Could we make this automatic? Are these the right details, and ONLY the right details? Are we speaking the customer's language? Is there a more efficient way to do this? The principles have helped us to prioritize work on new features that might make the biggest impact on our service including live chat, delay notifications, and a redesign of our new order summary page. 


  • Empowerment
    The product team can't be there for every engineering decision (or even every design decision) we make in the ever-growing Airspace Platform. With the design principles, we can state our brand goals and user goals and empower the rest of the team to make the right decisions.


What do Airspace's Design Principles mean for me as a customer or team member?

For me, Airspace's design principles represent a commitment to doing design right and creating a service that can live up to the needs of our clients. Every day they remind me what we're building and why we're building it. For our clients, the principles should reassure you - you're not just working with a standard logistics company or a heartless tech giant. You're working with a company that is always concerned with your needs, and that is always striving to build a service you'll love. As a team member, the principles can serve as a guiding light toward the service that Airspace is, and empower you to experiment to find new ways to help Airspace help more people. 



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