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Leading Sony PlayStation's Core Experiences Team

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Background

This would be the first Sony Playstation Console where the design work was led from the US offices (while continuing to work closely with our partners in the London and Tokyo offices). In order to launch the PS5, the design team at Sony needed to work in ways it had not previously.

In order to hit aggressive timelines, work was distributed across 11 teams in 5 cities and 3 countries. This came with its own set of challenges: Maintaining cohesive experiences, sharing learnings, increasing the velocity of the teams to hit aggressive deadlines, and creating seamless end-to-end journeys from the customer's perspective. 

 

I built and led a team that took responsibility for addressing these issues, allowing each of the 10 other teams to move quickly without shipping our org.


My Role

I was brought on at the beginning of the project to build and lead the team that would both craft the core experiences and build the processes and tools necessary to scale the design teams work across five cities and three countries. (USA, UK and Japan)

My approach was to:

  • create PlayStation's first unified design system, working across console, web and mobile. This included both design files as well as working closely with development to make sure we had the associated code built.

  • improve processes and tooling to facilitate closer collaboration and increased velocity and cohesion.

  • build a single source of truth for the customers end-to-end journeys and use this as a means of facilitating conversations across the constituent teams necessary to build these journeys.

  • build the team necessary to lead work on core experiences that would allow consistency across these journeys. These experiences included:

    • Unified Search​

    • Notifications 

    • Voice Agent

    • Cards/Tiles 

    • System Settings

  • create a culture of critique and workshopping that would allow us to align periodically and then work asynchronously (due to time zone differences)

Atlas - Playstation's first global design system
Navigation:
 

Creating a consistent paradigm for navigation was one of the most important, and immediate needs. After initial ideation, we worked across all ten teams to identify ideas that were converging and those that were diverging. Many of these ideas were built upon assumptions from the previous generation of dual shock controllers, so we also began working closely with the industrial design team, to bring in an understanding of what the new controller(s) design would be, and adjusted accordingly.

 

We spun up workshops to align on consistent paradigms and then documented the agreements in the design system.  ​We created button mapping guides and documentation files for all designers and as part of the Dev Toolkit to be shared with game developers.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Patterns and Components:
 

We spun up another team of designers responsible for creating patterns and components that could be used by all teams. This was a close partnership between our Visual Design team and out IxD team and resulted in both sketch files supporting the work as well as guidelines for their use. The team evangelized work across teams and established office hours in support of each teams adoption of these standards.

Guidelines and Tools:

 

In addition to the documentation of patterns and components, the team created high level guidelines in partnership with subject matter experts across the globe. This included Visual design guidelines, as well as voice and tone and even journey mapping templates and guidelines for their use. Lastly we created our own internal Atlas plugin for Sketch, which allowed individual designers to share work on stored repos as well as document/redline specs and collaborate via comments with extended stakeholders across all teams.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Process improvements:

 

In order to move fast, while also allowing each design team to contribute what they were great at, we changed our ways of working to find more opportunities for federated contribution to our internal standards. Leads from each team would be able to leverage a fortnightly leadership review to contribute content to (or request updates from) the design system. This could be done proactively (when a team was running ahead of the rest of the teams) or retroactively as a way of documenting workshop output, or testing results.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Aligning the work around our customers end-to-end journeys.
While individual teams had already been taking a journey-centric approach within their work, we as a larger team had not taken that same approach between teams. Accordingly, work was siloed and lacked a connection to the larger end-to-end customer perspective we needed. In order to ship the seamless experiences we needed to launch the PS5, a UX Architect on my team created a single source of truth around these journeys, and began changing the ways of working to revolve around a journey-centric approach to closer communication and cross team collaboration. 
A combination of synchronous and asynchronous communication channels were established, with milestone check ins to keep the larger streams of work aligned. Closer collaboration around these end-to-end journeys were supported by the core design team with pattern identification/documentation which allowed these teams to work faster asynchronously.
 
As milestones approached and the scope of work needed to be adjusted to hit inflexible dates, these check ins allowed us to take a holistic view of all parts of the journeys, to determine which might be removed in their entirety (vs having two teams each drop half of a workstream someone else might still be working on.).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Core Experiences
In addition to all of the above, we also picked four key experiences where we felt work driven from the central "core" team (with close collaboration with other teams) would be the best path forward.
This included:
  • Universal Search
  • Notifications
  • System Settings
  • Card/Tile behavior 
  • and Voice Agent
Each of these workstreams was led by a sr or lead designer, who was responsible for establishing working sessions to gather requirements, building consensus, documenting the patterns and then testing and iterating to optimize these key experiences based on user feedback.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Culture of collaboration and critique
 
With the teams distributed across SF, SD, London and Tokyo, and tight deadlines we found the need for intentional togetherness to keep us working at our best. Once a month,  key members of all teams gather in SF or Tokyo for workshops, where we would build consensus on new directions, and set work for the next 3 weeks. After this we'd review work from previous sessions in person, to augment the asynchronous collaboration from the previous weeks. We also used these gatherings to get to know each other better and bond as a team. I don't believe we would have been able to hit our dates without these moments together.

 
 
 
 
Impact

We were able to successfully hit our key deadlines (SDK and Product launch), with minimal reduction of scope and at a high level of quality. 

Sales Exceeded 17 million units in the first year alone to almost universal acclaim and the PlayStation design team learned to work in new ways that have continued through to this day.

Some initial reviews of the experience:

"The PS5 UI doesn’t feel wildly removed from its roots on the PS4, particularly as you get deeper into the menus, but it’s definitely different – and significantly more elegant in a number of ways" - IGN

"The overall Settings UI has undergone a nice refresh, with a lot of random menu items now combined together into more logical and encompassing categories. " - EGM

"The PS5's UI... is such a breath of fresh air. It's clean and has so much more room to fit all your games and entertainment apps." - Newsweek

"The PS5 interface is a clean, attractive and snappy evolution of the PS4 software." Toms Guide

ps-5
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