Design Systems Digest

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Issue 05

This week we compare two efforts to define Design Systems, get treated to three awesome talks from the NYC Design Systems Coalition meetup, deep dive into how 18F created a design system for the U.S Government, and more.

Distilling How We Think About Design Systems [Article]

Sarah Federman, developer and designer working on design systems at Adobe, takes on the tendency for people to get hung up on definitions of what design systems are.

Focusing on vocabulary creates tribal knowledge and cognitive debt for newcomers.

She explores the relationship between product and operation in this piece, but her focus is on explaining a particular mental model rather than putting forward a definition. Importantly, she stresses that whatever works for your team is the right answer. I maxed out my Medium claps on this one.

Defining Design Systems [Article]

Nathan Curtis of Eightshapes also weighed into the ongoing discussion around definitions, sharing a few of his own as well as a really useful template to help teams understand the composition of their design system.

How A Design System Was Created For The U.S. Government [Case Study]

Currently there are nearly 30,000 U.S. federal websites with almost no consistency between them. 18F and the U.S. Digital Services have been working on the mammoth task of creating a common design language that will enable cohesive and easy-to-use experiences across all government systems and services, and have shared some insights into their process here.

Design Systems are for People [Article]

Jina Anne needs no introduction if you're interested in this space. She's an amazing community leader, and she used this talk to reinforce the importance of focusing on empowering people and growing community. I've linked the transcript of her talk on Medium, but it's actually a fantastic watch if you've got the time.

Remember our purpose. We create design systems to grow our products. But those products serve people.

Why Design Systems Fail [Talk]

Una Kravets, senior UI engineer at Digital Ocean, speaks to those situations where multiple design systems may be competing, or a new design system rises up through the ashes of previous attempts and declares itself to be the new single source of truth. She asks the question: if there is a design system already, why aren't people using it?

Scaling Products with Design Systems [Talk]

Luke Patton from explains how his team's design system enables all team members to make design decisions, which is especially important since he's the only product designer on a team with many engineers.

It's a reminder that design systems don't just benefit large orgs that are struggling with design consistency – scaling design is a problem for small teams as well.

How our new design principles have shaped the way we work at Domain [Article]

Jon Hollamby, Senior Designer at Australian property app Domain, shares how their design team created design principles. If your team is in the process of coming up with your own principles, you'll likely find some value in having a peek into the workshops they ran in the discovery phase, as well as the activities the team used to reinforce their principles once they'd decided on them.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!

Curated by
Jack Lo Russo

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