Tags: systems

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Programming Design Systems

This is a really intriguing book that combines design theory and programming—learn about contrast, colour, and shapes, with each lesson supported by code examples.

It’s still a work in progress but the whole thing is online for free. Yay for web books!

Introducing Fractal and Federalist | U.S. Web Design Standards

Another instance of Fractal in the wild, this time for the Federalist design system.

Why Fractal?

  • It’s open source.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • It generates standalone HTML previews of each component.
  • It uses or supports many of the technologies we use already.
  • Fractal offers a customizable theme engine.

Painting with Code : Airbnb Design

Very clever stuff here from Jon in the tradition of Bret Victor—alter Sketch files by directly manipulating code (React, in this case).

I’m not sure the particular use-case outlined here is going to apply much outside of AirBnB (just because the direction of code-to-Sketch feels inverted from most processes) but the underlying idea of treating visual design assets and code as two manifestations of the same process …that’s very powerful.

The full stack design system - Inside Intercom

A look at the history of design systems and how they differ from pattern libraries. Or, to put it another way, a pattern library is one part of a design system.

The Most Exciting Design Systems Are Boring | Big Medium

Design-system builders should resist the lure of the new. Don’t confuse design-system work with a rebrand or a tech-stack overhaul. The system’s design patterns should be familiar, even boring.

The job is not to invent, but to curate.

Interesting thoughts from Josh on large-scale design systems and how they should prioritise the mundane but oft-used patterns.

When the design system is boring, it frees designers and developers to do the new stuff, to solve new problems. The design system carries the burden of the boring, so that designers and developers don’t have to.

Designing Systems, Part 3: Components and Composition / Paul Robert Lloyd

Paul finishes up his excellent three part series by getting down to the brass tacks of designing and building components on the web …and in cities. His closing provocation has echoes of Heydon’s rallying cry.

If you missed the other parts of this series, they are:

  1. Theory, Practice, and the Unfortunate In-between,
  2. Layers of Longevity, and
  3. Components and Composition

“Cooking with Design Systems,” an article by Dan Mall

Dan describes his approach to maintainable CSS. It’s a nice balance between semantic naming and reusable styles.

Warning: the analogies used here might make you very, very hungry.

The Computational Foundation of Life | Quanta Magazine

Philip Ball certainly has a way with words.

Designing Systems: Theory, Practice, and the Unfortunate In-between / Paul Robert Lloyd

Paul is turning his excellent talk on design systems into a three part series. Here’s part one, looking at urban planning from Brasília to London.

Pattern patter. — Ethan Marcotte

Ethan has been thinking smarty-thinky thoughts about patterns and pattern libraries.

You Are Not Paid to Write Code – Brave New Geek

Gall’s Fundamental Theorem of Systems is that new systems mean new problems. I think the same can safely be said of code—more code, more problems. Do it without a new system if you can

A cautionary tale of the risks involved with embracing new frameworks.

But when you introduce a new system, you introduce new variables, new failure points, and new problems.

almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

Fermat’s Library | Why the Internet only just works annotated/explained version.

A ten-year old paper that looks at the history of the ARAPNET and internet to see how they dealt with necessary changes.

Changing a large network is very difficult. It is much easier to deploy a novel new protocol that fills a void than it is to replace an existing protocol that more or less works.

Taking Pattern Libraries To The Next Level – Smashing Magazine

Here’s an epic brain dump by Vitaly on the challenges of putting together a pattern library and then maintaining it.

Sacrificing consistency for usability is fine. A slightly open-ended, inconsistent but heavily used pattern library is better than a perfectly consistent pattern library that is never used.

“Researching Design Systems,” an article by Dan Mall

Dan has been researching the history of design systems, annotating as he goes.

Design Systems

A newsletter dedicated to all things related to design systems, style guides, and pattern libraries.

Making And Maintaining Atomic Design Systems With Pattern Lab 2 – Smashing Magazine

A walkthrough of what’s new in Pattern Lab 2. It’s really interesting to see the convergent evolution of ideas here with what’s brewing in Fractal at Clearleft.

BBC Blogs - Internet Blog - BBC UX&D on creating a GEL foundation for everyone

Al runs through the process of updating GEL—the BBC’s Global Experience Language design system. I particularly like the thought that’s gone into naming type sizes.

Why I Quit Ordering From Uber-for-Food Start-Ups by Robin Sloan in The Atlantic

Something to remember the next time someone describes an experience as “seamless” and means it to be positive:

This is the Amazon move: absolute obfuscation of labor and logistics behind a friendly buy button. The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.

I feel bad, truly, for Amazon and Sprig and their many peers—SpoonRocket, Postmates, Munchery, and the rest. They build these complicated systems and then they have to hide them, because the way they treat humans is at best mildly depressing and at worst burn-it-down dystopian.

What would it be like if you didn’t have to hide the system?

Journal of Design and Science

A new publication from MIT. It deliberately avoids the jargon that’s often part and parcel of peer-reviewed papers, and all of the articles are published under a Creative Commons attribution licence.

The first issue is dedicated to Marvin Minsky and features these superb articles, all of which are independently excellent but together form an even greater whole…

Design and Science by Joi Ito:

When the cybernetics movement began, the focus of science and engineering was on things like guiding a ballistic missile or controlling the temperature in an office. These problems were squarely in the man-made domain and were simple enough to apply the traditional divide-and-conquer method of scientific inquiry.

Science and engineering today, however, is focused on things like synthetic biology or artificial intelligence, where the problems are massively complex. These problems exceed our ability to stay within the domain of the artificial, and make it nearly impossible for us to divide them into existing disciplines.

Age of Entanglement by Neri Oxman:

This essay proposes a map for four domains of creative exploration—Science, Engineering, Design and Art—in an attempt to represent the antidisciplinary hypothesis: that knowledge can no longer be ascribed to, or produced within, disciplinary boundaries, but is entirely entangled.

Design as Participation by Kevin Slavin:

The designers of complex adaptive systems are not strictly designing systems themselves. They are hinting those systems towards anticipated outcomes, from an array of existing interrelated systems. These are designers that do not understand themselves to be in the center of the system. Rather, they understand themselves to be participants, shaping the systems that interact with other forces, ideas, events and other designers. This essay is an exploration of what it means to participate.

The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement by Danny Hillis:

As our technological and institutional creations have become more complex, our relationship to them has changed. We now relate to them as we once related to nature. Instead of being masters of our creations, we have learned to bargain with them, cajoling and guiding them in the general direction of our goals. We have built our own jungle, and it has a life of its own.