I love how Jon Gold’s brain works. He expresses the desire to have more systematic designs, but the process of actually making that happen is tedious and manual.
But what if we could systematize the way we observe and reason about our team’s work? Are colors consistent across all of the buttons in our product? Are there anomalies in our typographic scale? How many datepicker widgets do we have? (a fun query for cross-platform products that revolve around the Gregorian calendar)
We find answers to these questions by pouring a big pot of tea, rolling up our sleeves, and counting on our fingers and toes. Or an abacus. Or sprawling spreadsheets. It’s like watching paint dry, sans the satisfaction of having spent your morning in a hardware store. And when the question is inevitably asked again in a day, week, or year, the counting starts all over again.
Jon discusses how we need more powerful design tools that actually hook into (and learn from) Real Stuff instead of living as off-to-the-side abstractions. Jon eloquently states:
Digital product design tools have traditionally represented design as a series of pixels and rectangles—things that look like the desired outcome, but are actually static images of what an interface will eventually become. Once a design is ‘finished’, an engineer must laboriously translate the pixels to code. Important to note: these pixels don’t contain semantic information about what they represent.
Some designers misinterpret calls for fewer static design artifacts as a threat to their craft. But that just simply isn’t the case! Designers are critical to the success of the work, but for too long our design tools have lived as silos isolated from the real products they’re supposed to help design.
That’s why I’m super excited with the work Jon and the team at AirBnB is doing. I’m super excited to see Figma open up an API. I’m super excited to see Sketch better reflect how web UIs actually behave. I’m excited to see tools like Studio and Design System Manager. I’m super excited to see bridges built between tools, disciplines, and environments. Really looking forward to seeing where this all goes!