Sushi with designers — Issue #1
Welcome to Sushi with designers, a fun initiative from the design team at Algolia. Every month we have designers over at the office for sushi and shop talk.
You may already know Audrey from her awesome UX collective contribution ‘Everything you need to know about design systems’. She’s also one of our great Design Systems advocates in France and a fantastic public speaker. If this already sounds awesome, wait to hear more about her work. 👏👏👏👏
What do you do?
I’m a Lead Designer @ Idean France and a Design Systems addict.
What’s a project that you’re proud of?
I would say every project I’ve been involved with recently has been in one way or another a good experience. But if I had to highlight one, I would say the design system project for Crédit Agricole (French bank). We got the chance not only to work on components and guidelines but also to influence how these elements were developed and put into place. It was one of those projects you can work on from scratch and follow all the necessary steps.
Where do you get inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. I don’t follow Dribbble or Behance all that much. I prefer to find inspiration on a stroll and most of all in conversations with other people.
What’s a side-project of yours?
I’m working with a friend on an iOS app called TouchUp. It helps you clean your address book while having fun and I had a great time creating all the illustrations of the app!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a designer?
The first time I spoke @ Web2Day conference about Atomic Design! It was the first time I would be speaking in front of a large audience of experts and I was very nervous. I spent nearly 2 months building my presentation to make sure I had something of real value.
What would you tell your junior designer self?
Always do your best and never be afraid to fail, that’s just part of this job. 🙂
Audrey and Design Systems.
What led you to design systems?
About 4 years ago I was leading one of the biggest projects of the agency where I worked. This project involved the maintenance of 2 different applications on 4 different platforms. There was no sharing between designers, no documentation or anything that would help us ensure consistency between the different products or even the different screens… Those were dark times in which our designers wanted to throw their computers out the window! This obviously made it really hard for me to lead the team and for everyone to ship their work successfully.
So I had to find a way to mitigate this misalignment and that’s when my desire to streamline processes started. I made it my mission to ensure that everyone had the right tools to get started and help evolve a digital product.
Design system designer? System designer? Design system manager? DS Go-to-person?
I would simply say ‘Design system team’ composed of designers and developers. I don’t think it’s necessary to introduce more job titles in an already complex industry.
What kind of skill set do you think a design systems designer should have?
For me, the most important thing is to think in terms of components and to understand the underlying systems in interfaces and organizations. Someone who designs a system should enjoy improving processes and have a good overview of the ecosystem of products served by the system. They must also be (like any good designer) able to listen to the users and to understand the constraints of development.
What does one absolutely need to start a design system project with limited resources?
There is no need for a huge budget to get started. You can totally start small and improve your system step by step. First, we’ll need to interview the teams to understand their main concerns and needs during the design and development process. Once these pain points are identified and prioritized we can then take actions by generating resources that will immediately create value for the teams.
What’s the most common mistake teams make with their design systems?
I’ve seen many but I think that the most recurring one is wanting to include everything into the system rather than focusing on what is common to all teams. The thing to keep in mind is: everything that is shared has its place in the system. everything that is not should stay specific to each team. It is also crucial to always start with one or two pilot projects to see if the system actually works. Forget creating components in the void… It’s not a very good idea :)
What’s the most common pain point you run into when implementing a design system in a company?
All topics around governance: Who should own the system? Who looks after the implementation of developed components and who pays for it? How to validate the addition of new components in the system? And of course all the communication issues too!
How do you choose what to document about a component?
We only document what can guide designers and developers through their process. It’s important to reduce documentation to a strict minimum because if it’s too long, it will not be read. And it also depends on the type and complexity of the component. To structure the documentation, we follow best practices and get inspiration from other Design Systems out there. For me, a good documentation must include:
- Goal of the component (why is it in the system?)
- Usage (do’s & dont’s)
- Use cases and states.
Which software or applications can you recommend for maintaining design systems?
If your design system is serving multiple platforms, I’d recommend ZeroHeight because it’s a great tool that allows you to embed “live components” in your documentation. I’ve also heard recently that there’s a new interesting player called Specify (But it’s still in Alpha). Specify is based on the design tokens approach and one of their goals is to allow design system managers to make style modifications easily and spread them across the whole system.
How do you measure the success of a design system?
Today, measuring the success it’s still very hard. The most important thing is to identify measurement units before even setting up a system. For example:
- How much time does a designer typically put into a screen design?
- How long does a developer need to code this same screen?
Then compare the results as the system expands.
For the qualitative part, we regularly measure the satisfaction of the teams regarding the system by sending them surveys or interviewing them. For the quantitative aspect, we use analytics tools to understand which pages of the documentation are the most often visited and which seem underused.
What other resources would you like to share about design systems?
Of course, all the Nathan Curtis articles on Medium and the Design Systems book by Alla Kholmatova. Also there’s ‘Design System repo’ where you can find design systems from other companies, resources and anything you can think of regarding this subject.
I also participated in the writing of the book “Hack the Design System” with Idean and Adobe. You can download it in PDF here: https://www.idean.com/micro/invent-design-systems
Reach out! 👋
Where can people find you?
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Thank so much to Audrey for all the knowledge she shared and the lovely time we had while eating the most delicious Sushi. 🍣