Ajmal Afif Profile picture
13 Sep, 35 tweets, 16 min read
Years of experiences and learnings packaged into a 50 minute talk by @danmall at #uxplus2020 on “Design System Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them”.

Rather than just tweeting out the transcripts, here‘s a 🧵 of my takeaways and semi-raw thoughts on the talk.

@danmall started the talk with a great storytelling — the tale of Prometheus gave fire as a tool to mortals and how civilizations expanded as the result of that.

The takeaway here (for me) is a story is a good way to get audiences to get excited and immersed into a talk
I‘m just looking at my notes here so forgive me if I miss few details but what stands out next was when Dan shared about this survey asking “For the question [“Show me your design system“] what‘s the first thing you‘d pull up?”
Some might pull a Figma or Sketch file, which is a UI Kit and just a piece of Design System. @craftui definition covers it well, “A set of connected patterns and shared practices, coherently organized to serve the purposes of a digital product”.
When he surveyed teams — what question they have most about Design System:

· Assets & Toolings?
· Team Workflow?
· Design Language?
· Campaigning?
· Maintenance & Governance?
· Code?
· Product implementation?
· Org involvement?

Give it a guess which questions get asked most
1% asked about Assets & Toolings! A good signal that teams have awareness and know about “What is a Design System?” and what to create and build.

Instead top questions are around the “how”:

💬 Team Workflow
📢 Campaigning
📲 Product Implementation
One of the common pitfall is that team starts by making components and go to leadership asking to create a design system!

The best way to grow your design system is to continue to focus on creating customer value.
I‘m paraphrasing here (as well as for the rest of the thread) — one tips is to replace the word “Design System” with:

🗓 3-months ahead of schedule
🐞 Less bugs
💨 Higher velocity
Next Dan shared Design System Leaders input on their approach and learnings; I missed the exact quotes and my notes just have words like “extensive backlogs” I think mentioned by @kimwms_ of Minted.
I suggest best to follow them for their insights if you haven‘t already:

@kimwms_ of @minted
@jmkirtley of @LibertyMutual
@taptodismiss of @lyftdesignteam

Personally I‘ve referred to Linzi‘s writings in the past at medium.com/tap-to-dismiss
Next in my note has @danmall mentioning “Design System Graveyards” but that‘s about it. Seems interesting will dig more on what that‘s about outside this thread.
Next another golden advice, “If there is one piece of advice I could give — it‘s Pilots!”
I am so sorry for this seems like there is some gaps in my note but I believe Pilots lead to creating scorecard to turn subjective topics into more objective conversations. This seems like 🔑 point so definitely need to dig deeper on this.
Next about how DS can seem boring. Can‘t say it better myself so:

“Design systems are containers for institutional knowledge.. Identify the design problems teams confront over and over again. The more common the problem, the better. Design systems should prioritize the mundane.”
Next takeaway for me was about how Design System is about scalability:

“Scalability is built on mastering the mundane.” –@lesmckeown

Couldn‘t agree more. Neck is hurting nodding the whole time.
I dont know about you but at this point my mind keeps on 🤯 after each slide I can‘t keep up writing notes and keep taking screenshots. In @kylietimpani slack message, THIS TO A TURN.

Next storytelling (love this btw) is about how Beavers contribute as Ecosystem engineers
Kind of disappointed there is not beaver emoji. If you are still reading this thank you.. I thought I‘m bad at live tweets but I feel I am bad at thread too. Though @joulee message ystrdy on leading w vulnerability & how she kept writing for a year pushed me to finish this thread
Memories are fading now so if some of these are plain wrongs I hope @danmall will correct me. So notes are saying Dan sort of reach out to audience saying if we are designers who enjoy “create a habitat for others to fluorish. Raise surfaces for others to stand on.”
This was a good one. Dan shared how tech are built on top of systems & how it enables the future work. Make it more accessible and faster. Dan shared another story comparing how his daughter could edit in iMovies in few hours today when few years ago took him weeks to do in Flash
I am taking a break now. Will continue later.

It shows how great these talks are and how consuming through video can be a better medium. I spent so much time trying to share the notes but I believe I still miss a lot of points.

Be sure to watch em all at @uxplusconf
Okay let‘s continue on. I believe I sort of stopped at Beaver. Thank god for Slack serving me as refresher for my notes.

For now the count for mini stories are at 2-3 that Dan managed to include in this 50 min talk! (with Q&A) I mind you. And you‘ll be SHOCKED to learn what‘s next:

2 silent video recordings of Airbnb design tool converting low-fidelity drawings into high-fidelity design
Another silent video was by @jsngr demo on GPT-3 with @figmadesign plugin
Dan mentioned these are great use of Design Systems; when you have it.

Although an alternative to bridge the work and collab between designers and developers are to talk as humans rather than using high-tech solutions.

I think this is the final mini-story Dan shared which is about Andy‘s brick shop which showcases all sorts of sophisticated yet elegant Lego collections like a Millennium Falcon set and many more.
What also available in Andy‘s brick store are these smaller components of Lego, separated by its similar types.

There are Legos that are mixed together. There are even trash bin for Fake Legos but that‘s the reality.
This Lego story seems like a great metaphor for Design System concept.
today Design Systems seems to overexpose and overemphasize on the documentation sites like Material Design or Lightning which an equivalent of the set of Legos in boxes.

Imagine going into a store with 100s of Lego blocks in the storefront instead of say, Millennium Falcons.
Dan also shared about @Clarity_conf and a quote by @jina

“Design Systems are for people.”
In his Q&A with @csj89 and @alexiscollado, there are a couple of points that stand out to me:

1. No company is doing it perfectly. Material Design has been around for 7 years. They are still improving it.
2. Design system documentation might be public, but design system purpose can be personal (to YOUR business, teams and products).

There will be these so called signature components. An example for that for Material is Floating Action Button (FAB).
These signature components are made for the softwares they are trying to make, around the businesses they do.

It is also to allow YOUR team to move faster, and that‘s a great excuse NOT to use other design systems (or great use case to use).
Last but not least pitfall is most teams are hard on themselves for not having a thorough Design System.
“We cant launch if we don‘t have 100s of components. Having 1 button and header component and have other teams can reuse that. That is a GOOD design system.

Is that a complete DS, absolutely not. Be kind to yourself and team members.”
That‘s all I have in my notes. I still think I didn‘t do this talk justice so be sure to check out @uxplusconf and special thank to @danmall for taking the time to share these learnings and knowledge with us. Hat tips to all the designers mentioned in the thread as well.


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