Paul is an independent graphic designer and front-end developer based in Brighton, England. Previously at the Guardian, Clearleft and Ning, he helps responsible organisations create purposeful digital products. When not writing about design, travel and politics, he can be found building Bradshaw’s Guide, a digitised version of George Bradshaw’s victorian railway handbook.
As our lives grow increasingly reliant on digital products and services, designers are asked to deliver coherent experiences across a multitude of platforms and formats, without sacrificing development efficiency and maintainability.
It’s no surprise then, that our industry should find itself obsessed with style guides, pattern libraries and modular front-end frameworks. Not a day passes without a new design system being showcased or a tool launched that promises to ease their creation. Without considering the audiences that will use these systems, and the changing factors that may affect their usefulness, these new tools could do more harm than good.
This talk will review the emergence of design systems on the web, and compare current practice with the development of older systems that have endured over many decades. From the leadership of Frank Pick at London Transport, to the genius of Godtfred Kirk Christiansen’s humble Lego brick, discover the core tenets of a sustainable and maintainable design system, and the realities we must face when creating them.