Stress Systems.

Ethan on stress and design systems:

You don’t start by fixing the system. You start by relieving the stress.

I made a snarky tweet some time ago that’s somewhat related to this, although I hadn’t identified the feeling with stress. But when it comes to design system it’s so easy to keep listing all the things we need to do! There’s the buttons! The awful accessibility problems! The colors! The typography! Agggh! Stress!

A while back I realized that a genuine problem with design systems work at first is seeing the system. It’s just all too overwhelming, and you’ll then make other folks feel overwhelmed in the process of describing this enormous broken thing to them. If anything, identifying the problem makes more people less willing to address it. What the what?

To fix the system you need to relieve the stress, yes yes yes, but to do that you need to stop seeing the system. You need to pick one tiny thing—let’s say it’s using lining figures in tables. Fixed that? Great. Then pick the next thing.

The same is true of politics, too. We see this overwhelming system of bullshit and we panic at the sheer size of all these problems when combined together. But we must pick the smallest problem first. Then the next. Then the next.