Peak Style Guide

Chris Coyier ended the latest CSS Tricks newsletter with some thoughts about style guides.

As much as I love style guides, and I love style guides, I wonder if we’re at Peak Style Guide. I’ve seen logos and mascots. I’ve seen dedicated sites and open repos begging for contributions. I’ve gotten generic emails from marketing companies peddling some companies style guide.

Everybody’s way isn’t the One True Way. The whole point of a style guide is to guide the particular style of some specific brand. AM I CRAZY? The success of your style guide is how useful it is, not how many stars it has.

I absolutely agree with Chris that style guides should be first and foremost useful for the people who use them. If you work at a place where a style guide can be effectively maintained with only a Github repository with a decent README, more power to you!

But I don’t think these style guide logos and mascots Chris refers to are simply gratuitous visual wankery. It reflects an organization’s commitment to making and maintaining a thoughtful, deliberate design system.

Taking the time to craft a good-looking, visible package for a design system:

  • Helps build awareness of the design system and helps get the organization excited about and invested in the concept. This can lead to more time, funding, and resources dedicated to maintaining and growing the design system.
  • Makes it much more approachable, especially for non-technical folks. This can lead to a diversity of perspectives being represented in the design system, resulting in an effective shared vocabulary and better cross-disciplinary collaboration.
  • Creates a sense of accountability for the organization, which better ensures the design system is utilized and doesn’t just die on the vine.
  • Can assist recruiting efforts, as designers and developers are looking to work at organizations that embrace modern Web best practices.
  • Provides an opportunity to make the resource bigger to include other style guide types like brand assets, design language, voice and tone, and writing.

When I see well-designed, holistic pattern library like Salesforce’s Lightning Design System:

Lightning Design System

I see an organization’s commitment to a sound, deliberate design system that’s meant to stand the test of time. If style guide logos, mascots, and dedicated sites help organizations get on board and excited about design systems, I’m all for ’em.