I was hired in February 2018 by the VP of Experience to build the design system of the company. A couple of attempts had been made before my time, but none had gained the necessary momentum.
After getting familiar with the situation and interviewing stakeholders at multiple levels, I realized that although everybody — from execs to designers and software engineers — agreed on the principle that a design system would be a good thing to have, when push came to shove, it was never a priority. Simply put: it was not a new feature that you can sell.
To be successful, I, therefore, needed a two-part strategy: build a great internal product (with some, quick easy wins), and successfully market it to my users (designers and developers alike), as well as the whole company — including the executive team. …
… and no, it doesn’t have to be how to code.
Here are a few points that have helped me assess what technical knowledge is necessary for designers to be successful.
One very simple reason: division of labor.
I’m not saying designers won’t benefit greatly from adding code to their skill set, but in my experience, this question arises mostly when the outcome of the production team doesn’t match the design specifications.
Nonetheless, like in team sports, the worst you can do when your team is underperforming is to take over your teammates’ roles — whether or not you are actually capable of doing it. …
In a complex application, developers will always compete for the highest number to put an element on top of the rest, without easily knowing what layers are already in place.
One cannot simply just write:
So most of the time you end up in a situation like this:
Part of our work on Radiant — Thoughtspot’s design system — was to recreate our Avatar component, and more specifically its crescent shape when we need to display more than one at a time.
Our first intent was to set a white border to the round shape, which might look like this:
border: solid 1px white
As a side note, I often ask candidates to create a round-shaped element to see if they’ll use
border-radius:50%, it gives me an indication on how much they know about CSS.
OK, so this works but what we’re really doing is faking it on white background. It doesn’t look so great on dark or color. …
Now that I’m close to having 20 years of experience (shhhh 🙊) as a designer and front-end developer, I’m realizing that I’m constantly operating based on a few principles. Here there are — in no particular order — in case you’re looking for inspiration.
A good tool is designed to be good for a few use cases only. That means:
- don’t try to use the same tool everywhere just because it works wonders in one instance. …
As a UX Engineer at Thoughtspot and manager of Radiant (the company’s design system), one of my goals is to improve the code base of our product and especially the CSS: I’m focusing on getting visual consistency across the board (243 unique colors!) but also trying to improve the scalability and robustness of our code.
After an audit, I found out that the CSS (344 files) was written in Less with a ton of technical debt, so while I was trying to refactor everything, I’ve advocated in favor of switching from Less to Sass.
While Less and Sass offer very similar functionalities, I prefer Sass because:
- Sass has a bigger community to rely on, especially in the context of design systems (if you don’t believe me, have a look at Adele, a repository of publicly available design systems and pattern libraries). That means good examples for inspiration and plenty of people to answer your questions.
- it’s also apparently vastly endorsed by front-end developers (see this 2018 poll). You might not care about it but it comes into play when you’re hiring…
- I also find its syntax less error-prone (no pun intended!). …
Being a designer means influencing your user to do the right thing — or at least to do the right things in the product you designed.
But let’s make a more general and bolder statement: designers are influencing users.
And because most of us want to solve real users’ problems — as we all should — we’re trying to make users’ lives better. When we’re lucky enough to succeed, then we’re definitely changing people’s lives. Our products do.
But let me ask you this: what are the traditional external elements of your life that influence you to do the right thing, or to lead a better life? Laws and religions. …
Like a lot of UI designers, I moved on from Photoshop to Illustrator, and from Illustrator to Sketch. But when I look back, I feel like something is missing.
I remember when Flash and Dreamweaver were the tools of choice for web projects. I used them every day for a very long time.
And I remember when Steve Jobs killed Flash and why.
I also remember that, back then, we were promised that the new tools would do the exact same things in HTML5, and rid us of the clumsy, energy-hungry, prone-to-virus Flash ecosystem.
But where are those dream tools?
I’m a passionate individual who loves to set up environments for my team to be creative and successful. I also love to contemplate the big picture, find original solutions to stubborn problems, materialize crazy ideas, talk about utopias, and more!
Given my rare skillset that includes design chops, front-end development, system thinking, people management, and project leadership, it’s hard to define what I do in one title so here is a taste of what I like to do and what I’ve done previously.
If you like what you see and want to get in touch: