If you’re like most of my clients, you’re a design, engineering, or product leader, working at an enterprise organization on its second or third attempt at a design system that truly powers all of its digital products. In the first few tries, perhaps you ended up with some great libraries that just didn’t get used as much as you’d hoped. (We call those “design system graveyards.”).
Six months of work down the drain. Now, it seems like enthusiasm for the idea of a design system is fizzling out and your leadership wants to reallocate your design system team to other projects.
It still feels within your grasp: a set of shared components all teams start with as an established part of their workflow.
They’re free to innovate, to solve more impactful business problems because they’re not custom-building yet another datepicker for the fifth time.
When the big rebrand or technology migration eventually comes around, you’d be ready. Change will be relatively painless, because you’ll be able to make modifications in one place that cascade out to every product with a few simple build commands.
If this is your first time marching toward this utopia, it can feel like stumbling around in the dark, messing up more than succeeding. You’re unknowingly headed toward yet another design system graveyard because you don’t know the steps, the process, the sequence.
You can create a design system in a way that involves your customers—really, your community—from the start. You’ll no longer feel behind, like you have to catch up and rein in the teams that can’t help but deviate from the system because there’s not enough of it there for them yet. Instead of policing other teams to keep them in line with the standards, your team becomes the one that propels them to boost the quality of their work. You’ll have clarity, and
It’s doable! Companies like Shopify, IBM, Lyft, REI, Atlassian, Microsoft, and more are living this reality. You can too.
The key is focusing relentlessly on adoption from Day 1 by systematically and intentionally including members of your team at every single stage of the process. You hold that as the focus for every activity you do by clearly understanding what teams need in a design system. And you iterate on it constantly and smartly in a way that scales and sticks.
My Design System in 90 Days workbook will show your team exactly how to do that, every day from Day 1 to Day 90. I’ve spent the last few years workshopping this sequence of 52 activities. It’s a proven process that, when repeated over the next 90 days and beyond, plants seeds that can blossom into a healthy design system practice. These are the steps I’ve used with many enterprise teams to help them create digital products efficiently, consistently, and in a way that’s a lot of dang fun!
“No one’s more qualified to create a design system workbook than Dan. If you’ve ever wondered about a good process for making a design system, this is a great starting point!”
You won’t find a lot of theory here: the workbook clearly instructs you on what to do and how to do it. The activities are designed for a cross-disciplinary design system team of 3–8 people working 20–30 hours per week to complete together over a 90-day timeframe. This workbook also includes FigJam prompts and Figma templates you’ll use to complete the activities, so access to Figma is a must!
Design systems find their full potential at enterprise organizations. Because design systems require deep knowledge of design, engineering, and product, it’s naturally a team sport. We wrote this workbook for a dedicated, cross-disciplinary design system team to do together. Because these activities are meant for teams, it may feel too overwhelming for an individual to complete this workbook on their own.
Following this process can likely save a design system team about 6–9 months of figuring out what work to do, resulting in about a week of design and development time savings for your feature teams at first, and then a few more weeks eventually. That’s about $30k–$90k of savings per team at industry rates, a 85×–260× return on investment for this workbook. (And I bet you have more than 1 feature team!) In a recent presentation to their leadership team, one of my previous clients projected an additional $250M (no lie) as a result of our design system collaboration!
Expensing business purchases is too complicated sometimes. I tried to price this low enough so you could buy it with your corporate credit card without needing to go to your manager or procurement for approval.
The right balance of specifics and flexibility that you can use to uplevel the impact and influence of a design system team in a focused amount of time. I highly recommend it for both folks that are just starting a system and for design system veterans.
It’s so practical it almost feels like doing a workshop & getting real-life guidance… only YOU get to choose the pacing.
An amazing playbook that you can run at your own pace whether you are just starting up your design systems practice or looking to formalize aspects of it.
These steps are great for any point on the journey to recenter your design system team and focus on connections to product.
I can’t believe how jammed packed this workbook is!
I recommend this to anyone who is starting their first design system.
I wish I had something like this available when we were starting with our design system.
Thank you for the dose of knowledge and energy in these discussions and activities about mission, collaboration, adoption, documentation, growth, and more.
Fully packed with insights and guidance. It’s a must-read for my team.
Imagine becoming a chef by studying led techniques and practical approaches without having to unconsciously just execute recipes.
Packed with tried-and-tested exercises for starting or reinvigorating design systems at any stage of life. An indispensable reference even for seasoned design system practitioners.
The most practical, comprehensive design systems resource that I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of mind-blowing how much thought went into this.
Starting from scratch feels overwhelming. The workbook helped me get clarity on how I want to approach our design system and team, and I always have a guide to fall back to when I need it.