Strategy

Design Strategy

Our design strategy is the unifying design language we use at Dropbox. This section outlines the rationale behind it, and how we apply it to our work.


What’s a design strategy for, anyway?

Our design strategy sets a new standard for how we express ourselves through visual and product design. Use this doc to keep your designs looking, feeling, and sounding like Dropbox.


So, what is the Dropbox design strategy?

Composing Chaos

Orchestra Image

The Dropbox design strategy

Composing Chaos

Composing

Creating order out of the mess and harmony out of the discord. Thoughtfully arranging for both utility and peace of mind.

Chaos

The way we live and work today: messy, real, and always changing. We recognize and are designed for the blended reality of modern life.


Why do we compose chaos?

Cultural Truth

The world we're reacting to

Our 24-hour, always on lives

Enemy

We stand against...

Complicated, siloed tools that leave us scrambling

Role

Our job at Dropbox is to...

Create structure out of your entangled life

Benefit

So that you can...

Make meaningful progress on what matters to you


How to Compose Chaos

All great design is usable, consistent, and recognizable. To make sure your design composes chaos:

01

Simple

  • We’re not talking sparse. We’re talking crystal clear. 

  • Our digital lives are chaotic enough. Take away extra steps and make whatever is most important, most obvious. 

  • No one wants to think about how their software works, so make it effortless. If you have to explain it, it’s too complicated.


If I were a user…

  • Is it obvious what I should focus on?

  • Do I instantly know how it works (without an FAQ)?


To keep it simple…

  • Put the most important action in the most prominent place

  • Ship fewer, better things

  • Push yourself to design without an onboarding modal


02

Helpful

  • Work about work is a drag. It slows people down and makes exciting projects feel like a slog. 

  • Design for action. Direct them to the next step, lead with the most powerful action, or surface a different product that’ll do the job better. 

  • Remember: If you aren’t helping them make progress you’re holding them back.


If I were a user…

  • Do I know exactly what to do next?

  • Can I see how another Dropbox product might make something simpler (i.e. going from sending to signing)

  • Am I expected to change all of my habits or does this fit into how I already work?


To be helpful...

  •  Include clear calls to action

  •  Reveal information step-by-step 

  •  Surface relevant products (even if they’re not from Dropbox)


03

Human

  • As designers, we can get obsessed with flows and pixels. 

  • But remember, Dropbox is filled people’s real, messy, wonderful, precious stuff—be it their rough inspiration, polished projects, or irreplaceable family photos. 

  • Make this digital space feel warm, real, and relatable. You know, as if a human like you designed it.


If I were a user…

  •  Is it clear how a feature fits into my real life? 

  •  Do the people and situations in these photos / illustrations feel realistic and relatable?

  •  Do I feel a sense of warmth and humanity?


To design like a human…

  •  Don’t force people to change habits—make their existing habits better

  • Create harmony between colors or word and image.


04

Magic

  • We compete on user experience, not features. 

  • Can you make a mundane task like organizing feel satisfying(dare we say fun)? 

  • Forget delight—that’s superficial. 

  • Embed a little something that makes Dropbox feel as good as it functions.


If I were a user…

  • Am I surprised a tool for work is actually…fun to use?


To bring a little magic...

  •  Add in some chuckle-worthy microcopy

  •  Challenge yourself to make a mundane task effortless (think: auto-organizing content)