On the design systems between us

Ethan Marcotte’s latest talk is so great and I think he captures the feeling of the whole industy/craft right now. But the part that really stuck out to me is where Ethan argued that:

Creating modular components isn’t the primary goal or even the primary benefit of creating a design system. And what’s more, a focus on process and people always leads to more sustainable systems.

I tend to forget this, perhaps the most important bit of advice for starting work on a design system. It’s easy to get so lost in the details when it comes to fixing problems, so much so that the work can actually be a distraction.

Just last week this happened to me where I went down the rabbit hole of fixing all the Tag components in our app; making documentation, tidying up our Storybook examples, doing an audit in the app and fixing the styles. But then I realized the scope and impact of these changes. Instead of fixing these problems myself it actually made more sense that I start to make the case for a dedicated UI engineer to join our team. So I went off and wrote a doc suggesting why changing our culture and our org is so important.

But anyway, my point here is that focusing on the process and the people when it comes to design systems is almost always more important than focusing on the product or fixing this one tiny problem. And I feel like I need to keep relearning that.