Cubcast Ep.1 – How To Codify Design Culture


Design, codify and culture are three terms from very different origins, but when you bring them together they form a process that is crucial to the embodiment of design processes as a whole. 

Codifying design culture. What does it mean? What is the process? What are the challenges faced along the way? And how can you educate designers that this is a crucial process?

We discuss this and so much more in our very first Cubcast episode “How to codify design culture”.

Hosted by our CPO, Raghu Sarangarajan, we sit down with our co-founders Aurobinda Pradhan and Shashank Despande in an attempt to pick their brains about the idea behind a codified design culture.

Here are the key takeaways from our first session.

What does codifying design culture mean?

Culture is a modern onion term, layered in multiple aspects about how people do certain things in a certain way. Codifying a culture is a method of quantifying these customs – this is how people do things.

Codifying design culture is essentially the same principle – the ideas, customs, behavior, and setups displayed in the day-to-day lives of design teams.

Specific to our goals here at Cubyts, we divide this term into three dimensions. 

First, it’s important to identify whether your culture is top-down or bottom-up. From our experience, a good culture is one that stems from the bottom, with high-level philosophies and guidelines given from the top.

Second, where is your design function aligned? A good culture’s design functions are always aligned with the overall business goals and objectives, a principle that does not compromise on the final impact of design.

The third aspect is identifying how collaborative you are. Design typically works with other multidisciplinary teams to create the perfect final outcome. Are you really involving everyone from other functions in the process?

We strongly believe these three aspects will eventually decide how you shape your team culture within your organization.

How did our co-founders go about codifying their design culture?

The key method of approach here is to show, not tell. It’s difficult to make businesses change their existing ideologies with talk alone and being able to show higher-ups the value of a positive design culture within the organization is the first step.

Codifying design culture is not easy considering it’s not a very quantifiable terminology, but creating a showcase of before-and-after representations definitely helped veer organizations in the right direction.

However, before doing comes the challenge of getting started. How do you make your team successful? How can you discover a path where designers can find the right opportunities? 

One thing that has worked well is bringing everything to the team in a very transparent manner. That starts with understanding what each stakeholder wants to achieve and figuring out how you can create a solution that benefits everyone. 

When we created processes together and assigned people with certain activities, we found people doing the right tasks in the right way from the beginning. In turn, this gave the team and the overall organization the confidence that the money was on the right table. 

Is it a design-led or organization-led initiative?

It ideally should be an organization-led initiative. Building a design culture is not just the task of the design department. It is everyone’s responsibility within the organization. 

Design does have a big impact on business. It has an impact on revenue and makes products acceptable to users in the market. Organizations need to put in the extra step to ensure a healthy design culture is established throughout the organization.

The biggest challenge with establishing a codified design culture

The biggest challenge is convincing the top management of the value of design, instead of seeing design teams as an auxiliary service that tends to slow down the overall process.

The top management revolves around an undeniable destination – money. There is complete truth in that businesses understand numbers, acquisitions, adoptions, etc. it’s always about the metrics. 

There are enough data points that prove that design has a great impact on revenue but the challenge is for design teams to be mindful of this. Design teams need to bring in a certain level of accountability from all stakeholders and ensure that what they’re trying to achieve aligns with the overall business goal. 

Advice for start-ups on establishing a codified design culture

Of course, being a 1-hr long session, there was so much more we touched on, but what fun would that be if we gave it all away here!

But to conclude this piece here’s some advice if you’re a start-up looking to inculcate a healthy design culture and codify it.

First and foremost, to build a strong design culture, give designers their due place within the organization. They are a separate unit and need to be allowed in the strategic direction that the organization is supposed to take. 

You need to find a way to empower them, be it in terms of budget, access, or even lending a listening ear to appreciate what they’re trying to achieve. 

It’s not about creating a studio and calling it a productive space for designers. They need to be able to collaborate with other stakeholders and exchange ideas that benefit the overall goals. You need to bring in a sense of collaboration, togetherness, and user-centricity to build a solid design culture.

If you’d like to watch the full podcast on Codifying Design Culture, simply follow the link and enjoy!