Creating a common language for designers, developers and managers


“Building a design system is easy, having people using it is the hardest part” ⁠— Anyone that has ever built a design system.

Imagine your design system as the single source of truth for everyone working in your products and that every change you make in your design files automatically updates everything you need, from the documentation to the code used by developers.

That future might be a lot closer than you think, and we’re going to explore that together!

More about the idea

In this talk I want to explore the idea of creating a common language to define a design system, but to get there we’re going through a journey of 3 parts.

The first part (of about 5 minutes) will focus on analysing the different tools available to create a good documentation website that will make the communication between designers and developers much easier. However, these tools are quite limited in terms of being the single source of truth for a design system, which takes us to the next part.

In the second part of the talk (of about 10 min) we’ll dive deep into ways to have a single source of truth from the designer’s perspective. This will include an overview of some tools that make this design to code process easier and a live example of how we can use Figma (with figma-graphql library) to automatically update a documentation website, a react application and an external custom tool.

We’ll also look into the future and see how the newer design tools are being built with design systems in mind from the start. These design tools show great promise but at the same time they highlight the fact that most of them are trying to “race” to become the single source of truth in the industry.

So that leads to the last part of the talk (of about 5 minutes) that is more of a reflection on what we can do to create a common language to describe a design system. With all these conflicting tools, maybe we need to take a step back and think about a specification for a design system.

Can we build a future where it would be possible to use different tools for specific tasks (designing, prototyping, animating, coding, etc) but where all of them understood the same concept of a design system?

Hopefully this will give the audience something to think about after the talk!

Talk Outline