Blog: Hello Design System World 👋🏽
TL;DR: Having an agreed-upon, yet flexible, common design language between teams is a great tool to have for creating digital products. But it and the products you (co)create with a common design language (or system) are only going to be as good and useful as your team's individual and collective level of compassion and inclusivity toward your users' experiences.
I'm grateful to be in a leadership position where I can effectively support and help advance my colleagues' work and passions, for instance, in assembling a design system for enhancing the digital work we do on tesla.com
As the last few years have unfolded, I have had great opportunities to grow into leadership positions at Tesla. During this time, I have remained (and remain) close to the work that my teammates experience day-in, day-out... within reason of course, although I'm learning the balancing act myself as I go.
Staying close to your users, their experiences and problems
By staying near the problems, this doesn't mean I need to make the micro-level, minute-by-minute decisions, nor do I want to: this is why I focus on building and mentoring a team of individuals I empower and whos' judgment I trust completely. What staying close does mean, however, is that this allows me to intentionally listen, observe, reflect on respond to the problems, challenges and feedback reported by both my teammates and users of our flagship product. To take it a step further, beyond listening and responding to feedback, my team and I also include ourselves as customers of our own products, so we can attempt to see and experience what our customers would experience firsthand with our product and be as proactive as possible with product features, for instance, instead of always reactionary.
Design System: A Common Language Between Teams
With all of this in mind, one area that my teammates have identified that our work and methods would benefit greatly from is the adoption of what folks refer to as a common language between teams; in other words, a
design system. A design system is not entirely new, and they exist now by other names in other disciplines, however, they're not yet common, or wide-spread, as a critical asset in most product engineering teams that I'm aware of.
Our customers of the product become the ultimate beneficiaries of a high-quality, consistent brand and user-friendly product. It's a win-win.
So, What's a Design System?
For our purposes and context, we're focusing the scope and meaning of a design system to be:
a common visual language agreed to and used by cross-functional teams, typically but not limited to design, product and software engineering.
Projects can get messy; especially, in the ever-changing tech world. Learn about and leverage design systems to help bring order-to-chaos and assist with scaling your projects with quality, consistency and confidence.
This common visual language can then be used for creating robust, extensible and consistent UI pattern libraries. When there is a common set of goals and patterns within a visual language, cross-functional teams can not only work more efficiently, but they can do so in a more confident manner, knowing that their individual and collective, collaborative work is consistent with the product's brand with the added potential of more easily scaling the work and implementing iterative changes on varying product concepts with high-quality (whoo, that's a mouthful). And, with that, our customers of the product become the ultimate beneficiaries of a high-quality, consistent brand and user-friendly product. It's a win-win. 🙌🏽
From Grassroots to Company-wide Adoption
Again, I'm grateful to be in a leadership position where I can effectively support and help advance my colleagues' work and passions, such as, in assembling a design system for enhancing the digital work we do on tesla.comand internally throughout the company. It's also exciting to see this effort be taken from an internal grassroots level (something we've been researching and building out on our own in-between the high-volume of work we have to prioritize and focus on, on any given day) to a more formalized project with support by other leaders and cross-functional teams throughout the company.
Alright, let's see where this takes us! Steadfast.
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I operate from a place of compassion, possibility and imagination. My work and efforts share a common goal: create a better, sustainable and equitable world by building inclusive communities, products & experiences.