San Francisco, California

Advice for a young systems designer

Here’s some advice for designers that are interested in front-end development, product design and systems design work (or in other words, designers that do design for other designers):

  1. Don’t get preachy. No-one likes it when you’re giving a sermon.
  2. Team morale can be a huge problem if you keep sounding like a jerk so, you know, you should probably stop doing that.
  3. Patience is the only virtue that counts because making even small adjustments to a large codebase can take weeks or even months.
  4. When you start a new project always start a new spreadsheet.
  5. Don’t be shy: advocate for your design system like there’s no tomorrow.
  6. Run workshops, 1x1s and presentations. Design systems work involves educating, mentoring, collaborating and making a lot of noise about what has already been built. It’s so much more than code: this job is about building a culture of relearning past lessons and long-gone experiments.
  7. Find everyone in the engineering team that’s even remotely interested in working on your styleguide and cling onto them for dear life.
  8. Think about the designer experience from the beginning to the end and build tools for them. Oh, and don’t get in their way; care for them as much as you might a regular ol’ customer or user.
  9. There are no heroes or parades for you in this line of work. Sorry about that.