Product Design
Tech Project

Product Design

Collaboration between Production Data & Analytics, Production Management, Artist Management, and Finance teams

March 2020

Product Design is an integral part of delivering technologies that delight our product users. While each project is unique, the design process is similar for each project. Here we explore the approach taken for our in-house application, Playbook.

Playbook is our collaborative web application enabling teams within Disney Animation to work effectively together, from brainstorming scenarios to planning and managing workflows.

With Playbook, we connect team members across departments such as Finance, Production Management, Analytics, Artist Management, and Executives.  By democratizing data across these departments, Playbook empowers teams to make more effective data-informed decisions. Click here for analysis on Playbook.


Playbook development goes through these procedures:

  1. Analysis - what are our product goals and context

  2. Product research - research other products/images for inspiration

  3. Assess constraints and resources

  4. Rapid prototyping/visualization mockups

  5. Development of a working prototype

  6. User and developer feedback 

  7. Refinements/redevelopment based on feedback

  8. Launch

  9. Repeat steps 3-8

Product Research

With the help of our Product Designer, we looked at Data Visualization tools to inspire this set of challenges. We also looked at various workflow tools familiar to the studio to establish a shared vocabulary for our work. This helped us in several ways, such as making brainstorming more effective, laying the foundation for a shared vocabulary, and embracing transparent conversations within our team, and in our Design Sessions.

Assess Constraints and Resources

Who are our users? What is their current workflow? In what format will they consume the data (i.e. print, variable screen resolutions, browsers, etc.)? 

What is our timeline?

Is the data needed for the project available, reliable, and in a usable format? 

Do we need to consolidate/organize our data?

What is the developer’s availability for this project?

These are just some of the questions that help enrich our data. It’s always good to set expectations for what we do and what our users expect to see as a result.

Product Design Sketches

Brainstorm sketches.

Rapid Prototyping / Visualization Mockups

This is the most fun part of the process. We brainstorm and generate many views to see what story the data is telling us. We want to do so in a way that adds value to the data visualization without detracting from the powerful story that the data already tells on its own. Once we find a view we like and agree upon, we move to a working prototype.

Users (Designers & Developers) Feedback

We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one. When our developers and designers work together as a team, we are able to more effectively plan our subsequent steps. Collaborating throughout the entire process allows each person to contribute with a full understanding of scope and expectations. We might come up with a clean design that appears to be easy, but when it comes to coding, it could be potentially impossible. Working together helps keep our project on budget and on time; knowing what’s possible and what’s not is key to any successful project. And that’s a win for everyone. 

We lead a design group every four weeks. We publish the schedule and invite our stakeholders to actively engage in the planning, creation, and support of Playbook. With their involvement, buy-in and sustainability are increased, and common goals among departments are established. Communication is consistent and inclusive across all teams, and the product is engineered to meet the users’ needs.


Based on Feedback

Refinement shows how Playbook can improve over time and what functionalities will be added next; it allows us to prioritize, predict, and deliver. This is where we wear a meticulous monocle of sorts, ensuring that the grid formatting and “white space” between the frames line up correctly (i.e. pixel-pushing!). We also confirm that we are optimizing our data performance across a variety of network conditions and devices.

The ability to recognize good design feedback is essential to the collaborative process. Sometimes the feedback will be clear. Sometimes what comes back will not be immediately actionable. We try to assess the design feedback against any discovery or user research that has been conducted. If someone makes a design suggestion that seems to contradict the research, we reevaluate with the team before implementing that suggestion. As product designers, we must be able to interpret, assess, and apply it strategically to our development process.

Launch & Repeat

Beta test. Validate. Load test. Ensure security. Verifying each feature of the system works and can handle the number of users anticipated will go a long way toward launching a product the way it is intended. 

We believe Product Design always advocates for users and is accountable to the users. The launch is the start of the journey, not the end goal. We begin a cycle of listening, learning, iterating, and delivering improvements based on real feedback instead of assumptions.

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