What’s Next for Pattern Lab

Pattern Lab is an open-source tool for building UI design systems. I’ve been using it to build production-ready frontend code for the last four and a half years, and I’m watched it grow from humble beginnings into powerful software that serves as the frontend foundation for some of the world’s biggest companies.

So I’m super excited to share what’s next for Pattern Lab over the coming months.

Huge thanks to Dave Olsen

I roped Dave Olsen (@dmolsen) into Pattern Lab before it was called Pattern Lab. I had built a prototype of the tool that would become Pattern Lab as part of our TechCrunch redesign project, which was the maiden voyage for atomic design as well as for the tool to execute those concepts.

I shoveled my lousy code over to Dave, who promptly burnt it all down and rebuilt the entire project in something like 2 days. Over the next few months, I’d use the tool in my client work and send Dave feature requests for the tool. “Dave! It would be really cool if you could easily swap out data for a component.” Consider it built. “Dave! It would be really cool if you could see where any pattern is being implemented.” Consider it built. “Dave! It would be really cool if you could see the template and rendered code for a pattern.” Consider it built.

Our Pattern Lab roadmap meetings were held at Pittsburgh Pirates games, which I believe is probably the best place to talk about open-source software.

Over time, the tool became more robust and resultantly started getting a lot of traction with the community. Forks began to appear, including a Node.js version created by Brian Muenzenmeyer. We realized there was a lot of work to be coordinated, so Dave, Brian, and myself (serving more as spirit animal than anything else) huddled together to figure out how ensure the PHP and Node.js versions were closely in sync.

Pattern Lab 2 launched with a rearchitected ecosystem that makes it possible for teams using any technology (Mustache, Handlebars, Blade, React, Twig, etc) to use Pattern Lab, and for different technologies to share the same UI frontend. This was a herculean effort led by Dave and Brian, and they really made amazing things happen.

Now that Pattern Lab 2 is out, Dave’s work is complete. It’s challenging to maintain open-source software in the long-run, especially when your main job doesn’t have you neck-deep in the software you help build. I think Dave felt the burden of that, so it’s understandable and necessary to take a step back from a project if you don’t have the capacity for it. (The community should talk about this stuff more.)

So thank you, Dave, for everything you’ve done to get the project to the place it’s at now. Pattern Lab wouldn’t exist without you.  You’re still not getting out of going to Pirates games with me.

Introducing Evan Lovely

There’s a ton of work to be done, and that’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to welcome Evan Lovely (@evanlovely) on board as an official maintainer of Pattern Lab. Evan’s no stranger to Pattern Lab. When I first met him at a conference a few years ago, he pulled me aside and showed me all sorts of smart stuff he was doing with JSON to bridge variables and worlds together. I was blown away. He’s also spent a lot of time bringing Pattern Lab into the Drupal ecosystem, allowing teams to build Pattern Lab right into Drupal themes. And now he’s embarking on a new adventure with a new business called Basalt, building pattern-based web projects at scale for clients around the world. We’re so excited to have him on the team.

Thank you, Brian Muenzenmeyer

Open-source software is hard work, and maintaining a project so many people rely on is no easy task. Brian Muenzenmeyer (@bmuenzenmeyer) has risen to the challenge to take the lead on Pattern Lab’s direction. In addition to plowing forward with progress on Pattern Lab Node (it seems that every morning I wake up to a slew of Brian’s Github notifications in my inbox), he’s been shaping the overall product direction, grooming issues, and maintaining the roadmap. I can’t thank Brian enough for keeping the momentum going even when everyone else (myself included) is MIA.

Exciting next steps

With the new team in place we’re ready to roll our sleeves up and take Pattern Lab to the next level. Since Pattern Lab launched four and a half years ago, pattern-driven development, style guides, and design systems have become industry best practices. Pattern Lab’s played a role in that, and we’re thrilled to evolve the tool to continue to help teams create beautiful, robust, versatile, resilient, UI design systems. Expect a lot of activity in the coming months. You can follow along on Github and Twitter. And if you have ideas, feature requests, and feedback, we’d love to hear it!