Design Systems

Pattern library or design system? A design conversation

4 min read
Kaysie Garza,
Eli Woolery
  •  Apr 20, 2018
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Design systems give product designers and developers reusable, interchangeable components to make the design process efficient and repeatable. They’re a critical part of scaling—so why build everything from scratch when you can plug in pre-built elements?

In our newest episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast, GitHub’s Design Systems Manager Diana Mounter covers everything from getting design systems buy-in to deciding whether to make your system open source.

As Diana confirms, design systems aren’t a new concept—but they’re picking up traction fast, even in her own professional experiences. Before joining GitHub to work on design systems full time, she encountered the challenges—and rewards—of a design system at Etsy. This experience also gave her critical subject-matter insights—like knowing when it’s time to invest in a full-fledged design system over a pattern library.

Key points to listen for:

  • Successful tactics to help get buy-in beyond the design team
  • When it’s the right time to build a design system with a full-time team supporting it
  • How a design system can impact everything from culture to the velocity of work

“One of the biggest impacts is people being able to get further without design help. An engineer can get pretty far building out a prototype, or taking a first pass at a new feature. It doesn’t mean you don’t need a designer—it’s just that other team members can get further than they could before.”

Conversation highlights

On making the decision to be open source or private

“GitHub is all about open source, right? So this decision was part of our culture and values—that if something can be shared so it might help other people, then we’ll share it.”

On convincing stakeholders to support and invest in a design system

“I think tapping into a real, everyday problem at your company is going to make it more real for the people who work there. Doing this will give them a sort of practical scenario they understand, so they’ll be able to conceptualize what this thing will solve.”

On one of the biggest business benefits of design systems

“To me, it’s a way to deal with UX debt. I found, especially on large-scale applications where a lot of people have touched the design and touched the code, it kind of loses its holistic, consistent approach. Codifying that in a design system tackles that. I think one of the roles a design system plays is solving problems that can be solved once—and sharing the answers instead of rehashing and relearning or reinventing the same thing.”

Design systems resources we mentioned:

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