Insurance company Fremtind organised a design system meetup on November 4th. The name of the event is Beyond Design Systems. The text below summarises the purpose of the gathering:
“The digital product industry has been welcoming design systems for a while. Many organizations have been better able to preserve brand guidelines, speed up time-to-market, or improve the user’s experience by establishing and maintaining a functioning design system.
This event will attempt to look beyond: To uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences from inside our design systems. What has thrilled users? Where has it gone wrong? How did we prevail – if at all?”
Because of Corona measures, the event was broadcasted online via company’s youtube channel. The experts who are located in different parts of the globe have been available via a YouTube URL. That was quite comforting. If you are eager to learn about design systems, you can watch the whole session below:
what is a design system?
There are several definitions out there, but I will describe it with my words: A design system is a collection of design rules, patterns and reusable elements which help a web application develop faster and in a correct way.
For example, almost every web application requires a loading animation, footer, date box, etc… Most of these elements are common in every project and they all require time to build, consistent style, accessibility, validation, standard UX, UI guidelines and more. So, the design system assists your project to cover those needs at reusable parts of the final outcome. Therefore, digital product industry has been recently moving towards design systems.
“Design systems should be built on collective culture, not individual achievement.”
Above is a quote from Glenn Brownlee who is the leader of design system, Jøkul. The inclusion of people are needed to make a design system work. If people do not participate, then there would be no progress. Brownlee basically underlines that a design system is actually a living thing. It evolves and the people need to understand why the system is necessary. As the process matures, actors of design system will not follow the rules just because they are told to do so, but they will see these rules as an expected way of doing. In other words, the rules will become their new normal.
Brownlee also added: “If all you have is a component library, you don’t have a design system. However, once people become part of the movement, that means you have a design system.”
A similar thought was also mentioned by another participant of the meetup, Mike Hall (UX Lead for the Service NSW Transactional Design System). Hall said that if a system was not updated and maintained, it would die very quickly.
I should confess that my favourite presentator of the meetup has been Eirik Fatland (Lead Designer at Fremtind). He mostly shared some of his interesting experiences while expressing his thoughts about design systems. That was truly engaging.
“In Fremtind, we for example have weekly design critique sessions that are important while establishing culture. In design critique session, anyone can bring any design they are working on and they receive feedback on it. Sometimes feedback leads to discussions. The discussions involve everyone in the room and they become wiser.” ~Eirik Fatland
And finally, Morgane Peng had a stunning presentation. She is the director of UX at Societe Generale. I think the Dunning-Kruger effect was a perfect example while she was explaining their design system journey.
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a bias in thinking, usually where a person is unaware of how badly they grasp a subject, not understanding that they are failing at it. Peng says that she and her co-worker thought they built some useful tool in the beginning and afterwards they started to receive feedback and complaints from the users of their design system. Therefore, they fell to the valley of despair because of their mistakes. This experience helped them understand that building design systems is not easy. After putting more work and engagement with additional actors, they started to understand what they were actually building and before they reach to the plateau of sustainability, more partners joined them. As a result, Peng says that a design system is 20% craft and 80% people.
All in all, I hope there would be more interesting meetups soon. And if you are curious about design systems, I recommend you to take a look at this blog post: Everything you need to know about design systems.