How to create your UX design principles

Harness your team’s creativity, foster alignment and improve the consistency of their work by creating some shared principles

Rachel McConnell
5 min readMay 17, 2024
A snapshot of the principles created for OVO

A shared set of principles provides any team with clear guidance on how to work. Principles outline how the team designs and what they believe is important, therefore helping them frame their decisions. Principles also help the team establish criteria to determine what ‘good’ looks like, and in turn will enable them to define some UX metrics to measure work against.

Alignment on principles is a step towards consistently high quality design work — if everyone is part of their creation too, adoption of them will be much easier. This may mean rallying the team to help create them, and while it may take some time, it needn’t be difficult.

Here are the steps I recommend based my previous work creating principles at OVO and Flo:

Step 1: Align on your values

This workshop will probably be the longest one you’ll run in this process. Ask your team to think about the values that are important to them in their work — what should always be true in the experiences they create? Some of the ideas may be quite tangible, such as ‘factually accurate’, some may be aligned to your brand values, such as ‘approachable’ and some may be more conceptual or subjective, such as ‘high quality outcomes’. That’s OK, capture them all, and then group similar concepts and give them a theme name. Finally, ask the team to dot-vote on the highest priority ideas. You want to take a maximum of ten themes through to your next workshop.

Step 2: Unpack and refine

For this session take a smaller group into another workshop (8–10 is a good number). Start to unpack some of the themes a little more. What would each of them look like in practice? For example, ‘simple’ might mean using clean and crisp design components with very minimal copy and lots of white space, or it might mean using plain English and clear, concise language. Unpicking how you interpret each theme will help you decide whether any can be merged into one idea (for example perhaps ‘ethical’ and ‘human’ might become part of the same principle). These themes will become your principles. This process will also help you start to define draft names for each of your principles. Once you’ve done this refinement, prioritise the highest impact principles to take forward. Between 3 and 6 principles is usual.

Step 3: Formatting and naming

Show the team some examples of other design principles (this website is an excellent resource) to decide the kind of format your team would like. Do they favour descriptive-led principles, one-word self-explanatory principles, or those with a lead-in line? Ask them to add hearts or emojis to those they like, and talk through what they like about each until you reach concensus on the style.

Miro board shwoing post-its with integrity and supportive and reasssuring with some heart emojis
You’ll use a lot of voting to ensure team alignment

Now comes the tricky bit. Again you may decide to reduce the group here, calling on your content experts to writers to begin crafting the names and short descriptions for each principle. I found it super-useful at this point to look back through the ideas from the previous workshops and highlight or underline any phrases or words that felt integral to each concept. The writers can do this asynchronously, it needn’t be a workshop. Aligning language with any overarching brand principles is also sensible, or making sure you don’t have any conflicting principles.

When you have the names and definitions, it’s also a good point to check in with design team leaders to make sure they’re happy with the direction too. They can then be refined further based on feedback.

Step 4: Define criteria

Once you have the agreed set, take another group of people to start defining the criteria for each principle. Maybe one of your principles is ‘Accessible’, how will you know when you’ve achieved this? Your criteria become a kind of design checklist for teams (at least at the start as they start to adopt your principles. Over time, the criteria may become second-nature). Your criteria should include some UX metrics you can use throughout your research. For this example you might define a percentage of participants with accessibility needs you’d like to test designs with. But for another principle, such as ‘Reassuring’ the measure may be more of a score you could create (for example you might create a likert scale question for testing which asks participants how reassured they felt with the experience). This workshop may take a couple of hours, or be run over two sessions.

Ensure your criteria also include any relevant brand visual, voice or tone requirements.

Step 5: Visualising your principles

Now comes the fun part! Take some of the team into an ideation session to think about how you could bring each principle to life visually. You might start with the format or composition, and then move into the concept representations. Remember to use dot-voting to keep things democratic — the more input the team has on the principles creation, the more bought-into them they’ll be!

Once you have the ideas and composition agreed, it’s time to brief in your visual designer or illustrator to bring them to life. The more you can align the look and feel with your brand too, the better.

Step 6: Drive awareness and adoption

This step is really the true beginning, and the toughest one. Spend some time crafting your story of why the principles are important. Ensure the criteria live somewhere that everyone can access them, and take some time to present the principles at every forum you can! If possible display them in public spaces, and get them in front of product folks. The criteria in particular are a great way to share just how much consideration needs to go into design work to ensure quality and consistency. And your UX metrics provide a way to objectively measure ‘good’ design.

Good luck, and remember, your criteria can evolve and change over time as you adopt them and learn.



Rachel McConnell

Content and design leader. Found of Tempo. Author of Leading Content Design and Why you Need a Content Team and How to Build One