Kaelig Deloumeau-Prigent is a self taught web developer from west France. He has worked for BBC, The Guardian, and The Financial Times in the UK. He has also worked in the US for SalesForce and currently works for Shopify on their Polaris design system. Shopify has multiple design systems, and Polaris is open source. Today the panel is talking about design systems and developer tooling around design systems.
To begin, Kaelig explains what a design system is. A design system is all of the cultural practices around design and shipping a product. It includes things like the words, colors, spacing grid system, and typography, plus guidance on how to achieve that in code. The panelists discuss what has made design systems so popular. Design systems have been around for a while, but became popular due to the shift to components, which has been accelerated by the popularity of React. The term design system is also misused by a lot of people, for it is much more than having a Sketch file.
Next, they talk about whether design systems fall under the jurisdiction of a frontend developer or web designers. Kaelig has found that a successful design system involves a little bit of everyone and shouldn’t be isolated to one team. They talk about what the developer workflow looks like in a design system. It begins with thinking of a few common rules, a language, and putting it into code. As you scale, design systems can become quite large and it’s impossible for one person to know everything. You either give into the chaos, or you start a devops practice where people start to think about how we build, release, and the path from designer’s brain to production.
The panelists then talk about how to introduce a design system into a company where there are cultural conflicts. Kaelig shares his experience working with SalesForce and introducing a design system there. They discuss what aspects of a design system that would make people want to use it over what the team is currently doing. Usually teams are thankful for the design system. It’s important to build a system that’s complete, flexible, and extensible so that you can adapt it to your team. A good design system incorporates ‘subatomic’ parts like the grid system, color palette, and typography, referred to as design tokens. Design systems enable people to take just the bits of the design system that are interesting to them and build the components that are missing more easily.
The conversation turns to the installation and upgrade process of a design system. Upgrading is left up to the customer to do on their own time in most cases, unless it’s one of the big customers. They talk about the role of components in upgrading a design system. Kaelig talks about the possibility of Shopify transitioning to web components. Kaelig shares some of his favorite tools for making a design system and how to get started making one. A lot of design teams start by taking a ton of screen shots and looking at all the inconsistencies.Giving them that visibility is a good thing because it helps get everyone get on the same page. The panelists talk about the role of upper management in developing components and how to prioritize feature development. Kaelig talks about what drives the decision to take a feature out. The two main reasons a feature would be removed is because the company wants to change the way things are done and there’s a different need that has arisen. The show concludes by discussing the possibility of a design system getting bloated over time. Kaelig says that Design systems takes some of the burden off your team, help prevent things from getting bloated, allow you to ship less code.
With special guest: Kaelig Deloumeau-Prigent
Sentry use the code “devchat” for 2 months free on Sentry’s small plan