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Cecilia Farooqi, digital design director, Equinox, speaks with Wendy Steinle, senior director, Marketing & Operations, Adobe at Summit Tank on March 27, 3018
Three Secrets to Design-Led Thinking

Three Secrets to Design-Led Thinking

Equinox embraces collaboration, consistency, and personalization to create great customer experiences.

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During the recent Adobe Summit Think Tank on the future of experience makers, industry leaders spoke about the importance of design-led thinking. Design is more than creating a product or content that is visually appealing. It’s about first designing experiences that will meet and exceed customer expectations and then working to meet those specifications.

An organization that doesn’t lead with design is making adjustments to accommodate the needs and limitations of siloed internal resources, regardless of how that may impact the customers. But design-led thinking requires all employees to shift their mindset by collaborating to consciously put customers and their experience first.

Cecilia Farooqi, a panelist on the Think Tank and digital design director for luxury fitness club brand Equinox, is a champion of design-led thinking. “When people are excited about an experience, then that motivates them. And that’s what we’re in the business of — motivating people,” she says.

At Equinox, Cecilia’s team uses Adobe XD to prototype and rapidly iterate how digital experiences are designed. XD helps them collaborate with each other and with other stakeholders, streamline production for multiple delivery channels, and quickly make adjustments based on feedback for more personalized content.

Working together with ease

One of the hallmarks of design-led thinking is to bring multiple teams together for early collaboration, and then extend that collaboration throughout the entire experience lifecycle — including ongoing feedback and updates. A design-focused business will include the variety of necessary players from the beginning of a project.

At Equinox, Cecilia begins projects with a brainstorming session that includes everyone who will be involved at some point in the project — digital designers, traditional designers, developers, copywriters, marketing managers, and more. From there, it’s about everyone communicating along the way and sharing responsibility for the project at each step of the process.

Cecilia’s design team is usually working on a project throughout the entire process. “Being able to work together on the same files to incorporate design, prototype, publish updates, and share for review is critical to working faster than we have in the past,” says Cecilia.

XD is a valuable tool for Equinox because of how closely the UX team can work with the rest of the creative team. “They’re in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and if we choose a tool for digital execution only, it could pose problems if it all doesn’t work well together,” says Cecilia. “With XD, we’ve had zero issues.”

Another tool that Equinox relies on for faster and more consistent design is Creative Cloud Libraries. “We’ll put all the core assets into one place — the photography, font stylings, how we handle buttons, and any vector artwork,” says Cecilia. “That way, depending on which application each individual designer is working on, they can pull from the same exact set of assets and have consistency throughout the project.”

Multiple channels, same experience

Equinox offers its customers a very physical experience, and it’s important to maintain brand consistency as they extend that experience to the digital space. “It’s extremely important to Equinox to keep a consistent experience overall — from when a consumer sees something on our website, then sees it on social media, then walks into the club with their mobile device in hand — to maintain consistency in message and visuals and tone of voice,” says Cecilia. “It ties the story together that much better, and helps someone walk away with the clearest message they could possibly get from us.”

Design-led thinking drives this consistency from the get-go by creating experiences that work across channels instead of producing separate content for each channel. “Traditionally, we designed web and mobile separately, and in separate files,” says Cecilia. “Now with XD, we’ve been designing them completely simultaneously — side-by-side the entire time. It’s not thinking about one before the other, it’s thinking about both at the exact same time. And XD’s really allowed us to do that quickly.”

Equinox also greatly benefits from the speed with which XD can create prototypes for testing and review. “A year or so ago, prototyping meant learning a very robust application, having someone that specializes in it, and required a lot more time than we typically have available to us,” says Cecilia. “Being able to come up with an example of how a product will function and perform before we actually build it has been very critical to us recently.”

Prototypes help you see how an experience will work before it is developed. Not only can you check the UX design with internal teams, but you can also get customer feedback and incorporate that in your design before ever going to development. This saves a lot of time and money in the long run because you can operate with a much shorter development cycle. In fact, engineering can give feedback early in the process too, ensuring that when it’s time for development, all the necessary functionality will be available.

Personalized experiences require ongoing updates

Cecilia works to create relevant content for Equinox customers based on what the company already knows about them. She helps connect the online and offline experiences by giving people online information about what they can do in the club and educate them on available classes and different types of workouts.

But the personalization doesn’t — and can’t — end there. Everyday, Equinox is collecting more and more data and using it to determine what is most relevant to customers and to engage them more with the brand. More data equals more personalization equals more work for experience designers. The challenge is being able to quickly respond to opportunities for personalization.

“Businesses are learning in real time. Any experience a company creates generates feedback the minute it’s live,” says Cecilia. “We just launched a new experience and we’re already learning from it.” With real-time feedback, you have the ability to adjust along the way built into your process.

“I like to call it being ‘proactively reactive,’” says Cecilia. “Proactively reactive means that you’ve planned a process for how to respond quickly to real-time feedback. You may need to flex very quickly or be nimble in your approach, but it’s much easier if you’re prepared to do it.”

Because people’s lives change and their goals change, you need to adapt to that along with them. “If you know that they just achieved a goal during personal training, we acknowledge that because that can be the moment we have the ultimate connection with them,” says Cecilia.

With Adobe XD, Equinox finds iteration on a project easier than ever. “We’ve really embraced XD and it was actually kind of amazing how quickly we adopted it. That simple learning curve just goes to show how clean and user-friendly the interface is. And it’s really become our go-to now for digital-based work.”

It’s the age of the experience business — when every interaction with customers is scrutinized and levied as an advantage over competitors. Design is no longer about aesthetics, it’s about how to bring all the players together for an exceptional customer experience.

Explore Adobe XD and see how design-led thinking is generating amazing results and separating businesses from the pack.

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