Photo by Stephen Crowley (

Building a design system

Insights for those trying to figure out where to start

These are the golden standards of design systems: Salesforce’s Lightning Design System, Google’s Material Design, IBM’s Living Language, and the BBC’s GEL.

Get buy-in first, patiently and broadly.

Settle the “Big Four” first.

When working on colors, we pulled all the colors found within our minified CSS. We then plotted them, noting their usage, to develop a new set of colors.

The important thing to remember is a design system needs “just enough” rules.

Document everything.

Start with the tools your team is already using to start organizing and documenting things.
At Stack Overflow, we documented items, providing code snippets and HTML previews. We also label where these components are currently available.

Create “North Star” projects.

A sample output from one of our “5% Fun” activities exploring Stack Overflow Jobs.

We’re still learning at Stack



Stories and lessons learned while building Stack Overflow.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Joshua Hynes

Design Manager @ Dialpad. Formerly Stack Overflow. I love my family, design systems, music, and learning.