The Design Guide

the design guide

The Design Guide is a new web application for non-design RIT students to learn design-thinking skills to apply within their own fields.

Role: Lead UX Designer

Duration: November 2018 - May 2019

Team: 4 UX Designers

Client: Rochester Institute of Technology


We set out under the supervision of a seasoned designer and professor to create her vision of teaching non-design students design-thinking skills. Our initial goal was to have a design system created with outlines of content and flows prototyped by the end of the school-year for additional funding purposes.


RIT design-related programs now support other programs through foundational courses for all majors to take. These interdisciplinary courses teach a variety of design subjects, however, there is no mechanism for students to continue the use of these design principles within their chosen fields. The Design Guide aims to quickly and easily incorporate design-thinking, organization, resources, critique, and iteration into non-design curriculum by faculty. This problem has been verified through user-research.


  1. Non-design major faculty who wish to leverage design thinking and method within their non-design curriculum
  2. Non-design major students at RIT interested in learning about creative and design theories and methods.


Our goal was to implement an online solution to give target audiences the ability to easily incorporate design thinking and skills within their respective fields. 


The design strategy was to create a design system for the continuous fluctuations of design information to be added, manipulated, and consumed. This design system needs to be created based off of user-needs, accessibility, and ease of consumption. In order to identify the details of these major considerations, we analyze user research after each piece is added to the database. User research will dictate all continuing research. We need to know our users thoroughly to make the largest impact on the design being utilized within non-design programs at RIT.


The user research analysis shows that there is design deficiency within non-design majors at RIT. This deficiency has the ability to make the beginning of their careers more difficult, turning off employers looking for design legibility as a piece of professionalism, communication, efficiency, and practicality. Students not only want design knowledge, they need design knowledge.

Required coursework for non-design majors at RIT does not include design knowledge, even though 100% of them are creating some form of visual outputs. They aren’t graded for their designs, but is it fair that they aren’t receiving an education that fully prepares them in their field?

RIT’s lack of providing design knowledge to non-design majors is a deficiency that can easily be remedied by the implementation of The Design Guide. Tailored design knowledge for their specific courses will be presented in formats that their learning styles allow them to absorb, as discovered through user research. Content will be easily accessible by being able to search by course and by using lay terms that do not require design knowledge. The issue of not having enough time can be supplemented with searchable and concise content.

The Design Guide will use flows that are familiar to the users. Intuitive movements through the site will make the users more likely to be successful and thus, continue use. Communicating to the user that guidance will be provided based on their needs, personalizes the experience and offers RIT’s non-design majors a more comprehensive education.

Making the site simple, easy, concise, and focused around a strong basis in design principles, users can gain a strong ground in design knowledge. Curated content gathered from RIT courses, familiar UX flows throughout the site (based on commonly used sites provided in user research), and trusted branding with consistent UI will add to the success of The Design Guide.


The design system created is focused on defined parts that contribute to the whole. Those different parts have purposes, goals, personalities, flows, and actions. Their characteristics are marked by content, imagery, animation, language/tone, color, grid, and placement. The relationships between the parts are defined through information architecture, the sitemap, and user flows.


Research indicated that we bring content to users through writing, short animated diagrams, static diagrams, short videos, and digital cards. Students need to be able to find information on a subject through searching multiple "related" terms and subjects given that they are not sure of how to define the help they're searching for.






  1. Time was a limiting factor due to budget, designers working limited hours, and a hard deadline for future funding. In order to combat this, we stuck hard and true to a schedule.
  2. Diving into research is kind of like opening the walls of a house built in the 1940s with intentions for renovations. You have no idea how much you're getting into when you start, and if you let it, it will quickly become a daunting task. In order to keep me focused on the right UX path, I built the framework of what research would look like with unlimited time and budget. Then I looked at the parameters I needed to work within, and I set reasonable goals to get me closest to my end goal.


  1. Let’s be real, users are in charge. The trick is having the right strategy with them to extract meaningful information, then knowing what to do with those findings.
  2. Layers! The best way of doing research, especially with more than one UX Designer involved is taking steps, evaluating the cumulation of data, and then choosing the next place to go. 
  3. Clear communication both verbally and through writing is essential when you are not the sole person working on a project. Motivation to communicate effectively is key to efficiency, and I almost prefer to work with people who find joy in the exchange.

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