Frequently Asked Questions
These common questions about online learning and design and their short answers are taken from Dan Mall’s book Design That Scales: Creating a Sustainable Design System Practice. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.
- What is a design system?
A design system can be many things: a visual language, a library of code snippets, a collection of artboards in a design tool, a way of doing design, and much more. In this book, I talk primarily about design systems as an organizational practice. Chapter 2, “Design System Fundamentals,” explores each of these kinds of design systems in more detail.
- Why are design systems important?
About five billion people use the internet each day, and the average person spends over six hours online daily. Designing websites, apps, and digital content at scale is imperative for keeping up with the ever-increasing demand for information and services online. Understanding design systems and how to work with them is already a job prerequisite for digital designers, engineers, and product folks at many organizations, and that trend continues to increase.
- Aren’t design systems just for designers?
Absolutely not! Design systems are exciting because they are one of the few tools that equally serve the proverbial three-legged stool of design, engineering, and product. Chapter 7, “Roles and Responsi- bilities,” describes all the roles and responsibilities that can exist on a design system team.
- Will this book teach me how to make a design system?
Yes and no. If you’re looking for detailed how-to for setting up UI kits in design tools like Figma or prop settings in languages like React or Angular, there are many online articles and courses that do a better job of that. I chose not to cover those kinds of topics in this book because that’s not usually where most design systems fail. Most design systems fail because they aren’t integrated early enough into the grain of how an organization operates, so this book focuses mostly on how to do just that.
- I’ve made design systems before in just a few days. Does this topic really warrant a whole book?
It’s true that a skilled practitioner can create design system artifacts like Figma UI kits and code libraries very quickly. However, a design system practice takes time to establish. It’s not that the tasks take long; it’s that design systems practices are exercises in cultural change, and change takes time to permeate through an organization in a way that sticks. Chapter 6, “Governance and Contribution,” explains the who, what, where, when, and why design systems take time—time that’s well spent.
- Will this book recommend tools that make design system work easier?
It’s an exciting time in design system tooling because new applications, plug-ins, and software are coming out every day! While there are a handful of tools mentioned throughout the book, the tools are too new and change too often for me to call out any as having stood the test of time.