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The power to serve

Lessons learned on design system team operation and workflows

For a system to be adopted at scale, the design system team has to operate like a service, where backstage activities are coordinated and choreographed to enable a desired onstage experience.

Some context about the Carbon for IBM.com design system

Lesson 1: a project, a product, a service

Example of publicly available project status information and usage documentation

Troubleshooting for adopters

Lesson 2: prioritization, process, and pace

A bug might only take us four steps to close it out. A typical feature request engages the whole team, but some design and dev work can happen concurrently.
We encourage both design and code contributions
Calendar for our v1.20 to v1.22 releases, where release date is in dark blue, and code freeze lasts for a week.
Dates that requires design attention — in addition to code freeze — are PR submission date and design and spec freeze date
Hypothetical example timelines. In reality, one can expect a bit more gaps between the steps as the individual is often handling more than one request or bug per release.

Lesson 3: observable value return

Bar chart showing the change in pageviews of Carbon built pages between February and November

Closing thoughts

Meet the team

Appendix: Description of steps

Triage. An eye icon in a circle. Colored black, magenta and blue.

1. Triage

Design. A pencil icon in a magenta circle.

2. Design

Spec. A magnifying glass icon in a circle, colored magenta and blue.

3. Spec

Code. Icon showing </>. Inside a blue circle

4. Code

Test. Icon showing lines and checkmarks inside a blue circle

5. Testing

Documentation. Book icon inside magenta and blue circle.

6. Write documentation

Design kit. A document with sketch icon at the corner, in a magenta circle.

7. Design kits

8. QA

9. Tooling

10. Release code



Carbon is the design system for IBM software products. It is a series of individual styles, components, and guidelines used for creating unified UI.

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Crafting design systems and design language at IBM. ❤ Motion, color, data viz, AR/VR