In January of 2019 I started a consultancy to help companies find success in design systems and improve the quality of their customer experience. Before that, I led design systems at InVision. Below are learnings from a project to improve overall design quality in InVision’s web product.

InVision has a robust design system and high standards for the quality of its customer experience. So when visual bug tickets began accumulating in our backlogs, we knew we needed to investigate and find out why. …


Fear is a motivator. But it’s often a motivator to do the wrong thing. Fearing your employees, your competitors, and even your own competency creates a posture of defensiveness which stifles the growth of all involved.

Photo by David Ramos

Do you view yourself, others, and your business with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?

Maria Popovo has a great summary on her site, Brain Pickings, of Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Here’s a quick excerpt of a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset:

Fixed

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence…


Leadership is a learned skill. It’s not a title and it’s not an ability some are born with and others are not. You don’t need the label leader to lead and just because you have the label leader doesn’t necessarily mean you’re leading.

Strong leaders possess the skill of bringing out the best in the people around them. There are many ways to do this, but I’ve observed a particular set of actions that good leaders do that result in exceptional and innovative work of their team members: vision, alignment, inspiration, and innovation.

Leaders cast vision

If you do not have a vision…


How design systems thinking can change the way we design

The primary value of a design system is scalability.

Where there was once crippling technical and design debt, design systems enabled teams to be agile. This is primarily done through building systems of reusable blocks called components that can be easily assembled to create any interface you desire. This reusability means you’re able to do far more while having far less to maintain. But what about all that happens leading up to the point of putting mouse to artboard or keystroke to editor? Design systems address the way we build, but what about the way we design?

When the topic…


How we systematized and customized our ever-present icons

Illustration by Erik Riley

When an interface is made entirely of text, the amount of time and effort it takes to read and evaluate every word increases to the point of cognitive overload. Icons offer a form of “visual shorthand”, lowering cognitive load and better utilizing space. Icons use familiar shapes and metaphors to communicate concepts in simple graphic forms.

For the past several years, Etsy has used an icon font to serve our icons on web and mobile. It’s a forked version of Oak’s Symbol Set Standard icon set that includes Etsy specific icons. …


Illustration by Naomi Wilkinson

Technology companies are expected to move at an incredible pace, and building software is complex.

Alex Schleifer, VP of Design at Airbnb, wrote those words in his article, The Way We Build. It’s a wonderful read of how Airbnb rethought their approach to design.

At Etsy, we had a similar revelation. Understanding how to design in a way that anticipates the inevitable future of change requires a paradigm shift in the way we design.

Dealing with Debt

As tech companies grow and age you begin to feel the debt you’re acquiring, not financial debt, but technical and design debt. Debt is acquired by…


A few years ago I worked as the lead designer for the San Fran based start-up, Zaarly. I vividly remember one conversation I had with CEO, Bo Fishback. Bo and I discussed how to be influential and how we should make decisions as a team. He said we needed to be convincing and be willing to be convinced as opposed to using our titles if we wanted buy-in. In other words, you must be able to effectively sell your ideas and be open to considering the ideas of others.

As a business owner, you have the “because I’m the boss”…


Just because you’re a business owner doesn’t mean you know how to be a good boss. A little over two years ago, two friends and I set out to open a coffee shop. We’ve now been open for 18 months and we have 10 employees. The learning curve of running a business is tough. But I consider learning to be a good boss even tougher. We’re far from a well-oiled machine, but we’re learned some invaluable lessons.

Along with being an owner of Methodical Coffee, I have a full-time job as a Staff Product Designer at Etsy. More importantly, I…


Don’t you love when something amazing happens when you least expect it? About six months ago I had a serendipitous event with my three year old daughter. I was putting her to bed in one room while my wife was rocking our other daughter to sleep in the next room. My daughter decided she didn’t like the idea of going to bed so she began to protest, loudly. As any parent knows, you can capture the attention of a child by piquing their curiosity. So I quickly asked if she wanted to hear a story. She immediately stopped…


Designers have been debating about concepts and techniques since the dawn of man. But in my design career, digital design, the debates have never been more heated. I believe this is fueled by how quickly technology and society have been shifting. The heart of the debate is rooted in the fact that we’re designing for a screen. This problem didn’t exist until thirty or so years ago when the personal computer was invented.

Design is relationship. The thing that’s designed speaks. It tells us what to do with it, how to value it, and whether it has a place in…

MarcoSuarez

Design Systems consultant. Previously InVisionApp, Etsy, Mailchimp. Owner of Methodical Coffee.

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