Mission: AWS Design
My journey as a design contractor with the AWS Web Marketing and Design team — UX + Visual Design, Design Systems
During Summer 2020 I worked with the Web Marketing and Design team at Amazon Web Services (AWS). I worked on a variety of projects that helped me grow in user experience design, visual design, and communication.
Worked with: AWS Web Marketing and Design team
Timeline: May - August 2020
Purpose: Work with the AWS Web Marketing Design team to craft deliverables rooted in UX and visual design
Tools: Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, XD, Figma, Sketch, Craft, InVision
Amongst stakeholders, there was ambiguity and confusion around the constraints of the content management system (CMS) system used to build pages on AWS. There was a salient need for guidelines to help communicate abilities and constraints of the system.
A CMS handbook that could be used by both non-technical and technical stakeholders. This document had to be useful in both digital and print formats, and act as a roadmap for the wide variety of people building on the CMS. It incorporated guidelines that complimented the AWS branding and design system, and aimed to give stakeholders more autonomy over their page build-outs.
Due to unexpected team outages, I also worked on visual design projects such as site merchandising banners and product page redesign exploration.
Mission: AWS Design
Since I am limited in the work I can share, I designed an infographic to show the timeline of my work, primary tasks, and skills learned during each project. I used the metaphor of a space mission to illustrate my experience with AWS, since my work included a lot of exploration and unexpected pivots. This was my first time working as a designer in a professional capacity, and as such, I was wide-eyed and ready to learn.
My four-month stint had four main components; onboarding, research, documentation, and exploration. The skills used and learned included design system documentation, user research, interaction design, UX design, visual communication, and designing for technical products.
Bonus! Scroll to the end of this case study to see my process in creating this infographic.
My primary project as a design contractor was designing a system guide (“playbook”) for internal stakeholders to communicate the constraints of the AWS content management system. The challenge of this project was designing a flexible handbook that could be used in both digital and physical contexts. It also needed to be useful for both technical and non-technical stakeholders, since it would be used by anyone from marketing managers to web developers.
Considering the range of stakeholders that the playbook needed to cater to, user research and feedback was important. After being onboarded, I gathered information from various stakeholders through semi-structured interviews. From internal employees who work to train customers on the CMS, to agencies that build on the CMS for clients, this process was helpful in laying the framework and establishing baseline needs for our potential users.
Design System Documentation
During this process I audited and documented existing UI patterns and web page templates to compile content for the playbook. It was important that the content, look, and feel was consistent with the existing AWS design system documentation and followed AWS brand guidelines. This was my first time documenting a design system and allowed me to think critically about the various constraints of each component and function in the CMS platform.
• Improved InDesign skills and gained an understanding of UX design for print, rather than web.
• Involving stakeholders and colleagues at various stages of the product is useful for refining and creating a minimum viable product.
• UX writing techniques can help communicate constraints of a technical system.
Once July rolled around, the AWS Web Marketing and Design team experienced some unexpected team outages. As such, I was asked to pivot from my primary project to help with some visual design projects. During this stage, I conducted design exploration for visual patterns including AWS product pages and various product diagrams.
I incorporated my strong affinity towards interaction design into both explorations. When iterating on designs for the diagrams, one important consideration was how to present the "how it works" information in a minimal and non-technical way while allowing the user to "dig deeper" for more technical information if they chose to do so. When considering new approaches to these graphics, I studied interactive UI patterns such as carousels, tabs, and accordion menus.
While participating in a team-wide design jam for an AWS product page redesign project, I employed UX design skills to consider various approaches to move users through the customer funnel. I explored changes in information architecture and page layout, including a sticky side navigation and parallax scrolling. Although this project went beyond my time with AWS, the goal was to contribute ideas that could be used for testing with a design research agency.
• Flexibility and scalability are crucial considerations in design explorations that extend to several use cases.
• Interaction design and UI patterns can be incorporated to avoid information overload on a landing page experience.
• Good design considers business goals.
Another secondary project was designing site merchandising illustrations for internal stakeholders’ product pages on AWS. This project involved translating highly technical product descriptions into easily digestible illustrations and diagrams using key metaphors and AWS brand guidelines.
Translating creative briefs into designs that clients felt accurately depicted their product to the masses was challenging, but also a fun critical thinking exercise. I learned to use visual design as a medium to communicate the key product features, and drew on my marketing experience to decipher the important selling points of each product. Incorporating AWS brand guidelines and icons pushed me outside of my personal design preferences and helped me understand the corporate design process. I also attended weekly stand-ups with the internal team where I communicated my design decisions and gave feedback on others' designs.
This biggest challenge in creating site merch illustrations and diagrams was communicating benefits of very technical products to a potentially non-technical audience. The process involved a lot of research prior to designing, which included reading through product pages and studying previous site merch illustrations for the product or competitions.
• Improved ability to translate technical information for a non-technical audience.
• Enhanced my ability to communicate design decisions, and to give constructive criticism on design work.
• Refined Illustrator skills and learned how to implement brand guidelines in visual design.
While I was initially hired as a Jr. UX Designer, I learned lessons that are complimentary to every aspect of design.
Form follows function
This is something I had to keep in mind throughout the design process, no matter the project. Creating a product with the user in mind is crucial, and making it look good is the cherry on top. If a product does not satisfy its intended purpose, it is not good design.
Intentional design is key
Being intentional during each step of the design process make it easier to communicate your rationale to the stakeholder. Always consider the reason behind your design decisions and reflect on whether it aligns with the user’s needs.
UX can mean many things
Having the words “user experience” in your title can mean different things depending on the company and even the team. UX Designers wear many hats, and may partake in research efforts, visual design exploration, prototyping, wireframing, and more. This was my first time working with a "Visual UX Designer" and piqued my interest for the intersection of the two disciplines.
I started this project with four keywords: exploration, unexpected, autonomy, and breadth. These guided the design of my infographic as aimed for a less formal, more subjective, emotionally triggered visual representation of my experience.
When designing this infographic, I was inspired by the assemblage design style and wanted to incorporate textures and real objects (i.e., my cat who lounged by my side all summer) while playing with movement and bold colors. My mood board inspired my color palette, illustration style, and approach to creating a collage look and feel within my infographic. Fun fact: I own the earrings featured here, and was inspired to incorporate their texture and movement in my design.
My first sketches started as a more literal interpretation of going into space and returning to earth. However, after some feedback, my final sketch included more infographic elements such as a timeline. I found it difficult to quantify my work on so many different projects, so I instead focused on the primary skills I used on each project. The resulting layout is compiled and dynamic, which aligns with my goal of informality and movement.
The color solution was bold and exciting, as I imagine a space mission would be. The red was inspired by my earrings and the gold by Amazon's logo. Based on those two colors I added a bright indigo, creating a split complementary color harmony. The secondary colors included a tint of my primary red to differentiate heading levels in the design, and neutrals were used as accents. Although the Futura may be an obvious typography choice, I loved the bold, geometric shapes that indicate modernity.
This infographic gave me an opportunity to demonstrate growth in my visual design skills after working with AWS. It also challenged me to think about information visualization and how to portray a narrative using primarily illustrations. Personally, I can see a clear indication of confidence exuded in this work compared to projects from early 2020. While my preferred design style is minimal and clean, I explored outside of my comfort zone to create a fun and dynamic piece that represents my metaphor of space exploration.