Developing our design principles


A few years ago, we began creating Asana with the goal of improving the way teams work together, but exactly how this would manifest in the product design was unclear. This is how it should be — starting out and building a new product means a lot of iteration, trying new ideas, and moving quickly.

Why Now?
Since our product has grown in functionality and our vision has matured, we now feel it is appropriate to be more intentional in our design decisions. When you move fast and don’t consider every step, it can be easy to lose sight of your larger vision. And, as a company focused on teamwork and efficiency, it’s probably no surprise that we want to be as productive as possible in our design decisions. So, it’s now the right time for us to develop and implement a set of design principles.

The Process
Our first step was to set goals to ensure that spending the time to write principles was a productive use of time. We set the following goals before getting started:

Design Principles should help the product team remain focused on a consistent vision of what makes our product experience unique. They should be specific enough to differentiate us from other products, reflect our values, and help us make decisions; but broad enough to apply universally to our product.

Next, our team discussed our overarching design goals and vision, and we recounted past instances where we could have used direction. After much discussion, we agreed on a set of principles outlining the experience we want to create for our users.

Asana’s Design Principles

Allow users to focus on their work without interference.
A user’s focus should be in their control, only distract users with changes that are personally relevant.

Increase confidence through clarity.
Within the application, and more broadly within teams, it is unambiguous what is happening and why.

Foster productive and emotionally satisfying interpersonal dynamics.
Users feel like they are part of a team, where they can count on each other to do their part, and feel like they’re moving forward towards a common goal.

Design for fast, effortless, and intentional interactions.
Simple and common tasks should be frictionless and obvious; complex tasks should feel efficient and delightful. But, speed should not lead to inaccuracies.

Empower everyone through progressive discoverability.  
Everyone at all levels of experience with Asana should feel like they know how to use the product, regardless of how many features they use.

Be consistent and standard, and innovate when it’s worth it.
Users should feel like Asana is familiar yet modern.

We are looking forward to internalizing these principles, and can’t wait for everyone to experience the next generation of Asana as we push forward into the future. For more information about our design principles, read our internal doc. For more details about our process for developing design principles, read my article on Medium.