Happy Birthday, Truss Design


article: Jesse Taggert / illustration: Sarah Madden

Hello world! + 365 days of awesome

A little over a year ago, I showed up at the San Francisco Truss office as Truss’ first design director. They handed me a laptop, and I logged into Slack and got to work. The company was working on MilMove, and while they were already practicing excellent infrastructure and software development, the project required product strategy and design skills to make it a success. 

The timing was great for me. After 3+ years working for federal and state government (and private industry before that) I wanted to build a design practice from scratch—hiring a team from the start that would work well together. I’m committed to building a team that has the psychological safety that sets folks to thrive and do excellent research and creative design work. Government, enterprise, and any other work in complex environments is challenging; strategic and creative thinking can only thrive if people feel safe and and truly work in cross-functional teams.

This is the kind of team you hope for your entire career. Equal parts humble, insanely talented, and kind, my teammates make me feel professionally challenged and personally cared for. The kind of work we get to do together is the icing on the cake.

And so here we are — after several years as an “engineering only” consultancy—Truss has evolved to include both design and product as practices. Design has grown from a conversation with the company founders to a team of eleven researchers and designers. Our design team hails from across the US, including the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Atlanta and New York. 

I am so proud of the folks on this team and excited by what we have accomplished in the past year. Here are some highlights followed by goals for the next twelve months!

This past year, we:

  1. Performed user research, stakeholder research, product strategy, product design, design systems, content strategy, and UX writing on four projects for the federal government. We educated Truss peers and clients on the value of design work while we do the work. 

  2. Led a human centered design workshop at the Code for America Summit this past June.

  3. Rewrote and redesigned Truss’ own website. 

  4. Started weekly sessions for critique and practice development, along with a weekly design huddle. 

  5. Created internal content strategy office hours to help any Trussel who wanted help with writing, survey design, information architecture, or other content questions.

  6. Did user centered research on our own organization to assess how onboarding new Trussels has been working, and how we can improve.

  7. Interviewed many applicants for positions at Truss—both in design and other disciplines. At Truss we all interview candidates regardless of practice area, so designers interview engineers at some point in the process and vice versa.

    (Kudos goes to every member of the team who has initiated, led, or participated in these wins!)

In the next 12 months, our goals include:

  1. Continue to do excellent work for meaningful government and private sector organizations. We do foundational research with our partners to ensure we are solving the right problem, as well as do excellent product design and user research to ensure we are solving the problem right. 

  2. Offer robust Discovery and Framing services to our government and private sector clients.

  3. Ensuring accessibility and inclusive design practices integrated into our process from day one.

  4. Improve how we hire designers to join Truss. We have gathered feedback from applicants and Trussels about what’s working and what’s not in this process.

  5. Assess our skills as researchers and designers using a competency mapping framework

  6. Spin up internal practice guilds at Truss so all Trussels can gain research and design literacy.

  7. Share more about the work we do on this blog, at upcoming conferences, etc. (To that end, Trussel designers Karen VanHouten will be speaking at Leadership by Design in August and Carmen Bocanegra will be speaking at Midwest UX this October).

Joining the design team at Truss has been, in the words of Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler, a dare-to-be-great situation. We’re introducing design to an organization with strong roots in engineering. We’re introducing design to our clients. We’re practicing content strategy as a key piece of UX. And we’re making it all work, to make better products for our clients.