Transcript from the "Introduction" Lesson
>> Hello, my name is Ben Callahan. I am the founder of Sparkbox. I have been helping organizations create a more systematic design program for over a decade alongside the awesome team I have at Sparkbox. And these days, almost every engagement that we do at Sparkbox involves a design system in some capacity.
[00:00:19] And I've spent the last five years in particular doing a deep dive on research about how designs items are maturing. I have organized some industry wide surveys for the last five years. I've conducted hundreds of formal interviews, and I've had thousands of conversations with folks like yourselves. Today, we are not going to write a single line of code.
[00:00:39] [LAUGH] We're not gonna do any design. We're not gonna do any wireframing. You will not be doing anything in Git. Honestly, if you wanna learn how to code a component, or how to use a token in Figma or something, you can find a thousand tutorials for that stuff online.
[00:00:54] Design system work is a little bit different than anything else that we do. And in the end, what we're doing is asking everyone to change the way that they think and the way that they work. So that makes it uniquely difficult in my understanding, and that means there's a lot more to do than just designing and coding a system.
[00:01:14] That also means that the approach that super smart folks that you have probably read about, companies like Salesforce or IBM or Shopify, these folks are great, right? They've done amazing work. But what made their systems work are probably not going to make your system work. And so that's why I believe there is no one way to do this stuff.
[00:01:39] So what I wanna do today is share with you a way of thinking about digital design that will help you build a healthy design system. I wanna show you how to find your way. So for those of you who love an agenda, any type A folks, [LAUGH] here are the big concepts that we're gonna cover today.
[00:01:55] We're gonna start with just high level anatomy of a design system. What the heck is this, right? And what are the pieces and parts that make up a system? Then I'll share with you a bunch of interesting concepts and models for how systems mature. This is just from the research, from the interviews, from the surveys over the last five years.
[00:02:14] And we'll do an overview of that maturity model. There's four stages, we'll talk through those. And then I'll share with you a concept called origin stories, which really impacts the way systems mature. After that, I'll walk you through a framework for how to mature your own system. And we'll kinda do a deep dive into each of the stages of maturity, and I'll show you some key concepts that the healthiest designed system teams are using to keep their system moving in a good direction.
[00:02:42] Then I'll show you a framework for how to maintain stability, because things around your system are always gonna be changing and shifting. And finally, I'm gonna talk with you a little bit about how the culture of an organization has a dramatic impact on the way that you approach a systematic program.
[00:03:00] So there's a lot of material here to cover. It's all very conceptual and theoretical, and that's because there is no single way to do this. So what I'm trying to do is empower you to take these models and put them into practice wherever it is that you work.
[00:03:14] Before we jump into all of that, I just wanna give you my contact information. I love this stuff. I will literally talk about it with you all day, if you're willing to hear it. In fact, you are going to hear it today. [LAUGH] So that's what we're doing.
[00:03:27] But my email is here. I'm on Twitter. I'm on Mastodon, most of the social channels, just Ben Callahan. And I even made this handy little form for you if you have feedback on this presentation. If you have questions that we don't get to during the day, or if you have ideas, or if you have a story, or if you just wanna say hello, or set some time up to chat, you can do all of that stuff at this link.
[00:03:49] Get to connect with Ben link there. So take some time to do that, even just to let me know that you were here, and we can stay connected after this. That would be wonderful. So it would be really helpful to have a moment where I'll share a little bit of my context, a challenge that I'm facing today, and a success that I've had recently.
[00:04:07] And I'm gonna ask each of you who are willing and able to do so to share something similar with the group, just so we can kinda get a sense for who's here and why you're here. I'll start. I studied computer science and graduated with that degree. I actually worked as an enterprise software engineer for about six years right out of school, and then I decided that [LAUGH] that soul-crushing work was not for me, and I started my own business.
[00:04:33] And I've kinda been doing my own thing ever since. So that's been about about 20 years that I've had something going. Now the types of businesses I've organized are very different. I used to make short films. I ran audio on films. I had a recording studio for a while.
[00:04:49] I'm a musician, I'm a poet, I'm a writer. And all of those parts of my life, the sort of love and passion of art, kinda pulled me away from enterprise software towards digital design. I was trying to find a way to use that passion that I had in the work that I was also doing.
[00:05:06] So I kind of finally found my place as a frontend developer where I got to marry the technical side, cuz I do love to code. I do love that part of the work. But I got to marry that with the interface, the work of building something that a user would actually touch.
[00:05:21] And so that's where I really found my home. One challenge that I am under, or that I'm facing right now is I'm actually under contract to write a book. Actually, a lot of the material that I'll share with you today is from that. I don't know if y'all have ever done this, but writing something so long is difficult.
[00:05:40] It's exhausting in weird ways I never imagined. There have been days when I just was done. [LAUGH] There have also been days where I couldn't get any words out onto the page. It's not simple. It's really hard. And there were days where I really didn't think that I would finish it.
[00:05:58] The success, though, is the other side of that, which is that literally Sunday evening, I submitted the first draft of this thing, so over 45,000 words. I somehow managed to get out onto a page, about all of this. And so I'm really excited about that. It's a big stake in the ground for me.
[00:06:17] Of course, there's tons of editing and all of that to do still, but it feels like momentum.