Clarity is the pioneer of design systems conferences ✨🎨 It brings together world-class design leaders to share insights on the best practices in design operations.

With Clarity 2018 wrapping up on Wednesday, it's the perfect time to revisit our notes from previous years to see how things have evolved. To start this series, we're looking back at our main takeaways from Clarity 2016. Let's go! 👊

The Thing is Design Systems. The Time is Now.

by Brad Frost

  • To get buy-in from stakeholders, make them feel the pain by showing them existing inconsistencies using an interface inventory
  • If you can't get buy-in, do it anyway:
  1. Make something
  2. Show it's useful
  3. Make it official
  • A great-looking styleguide is key – it shows commitment and encourages other people to get involved

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Beyond the Toolkit: Spreading a System Across People & Products

by Nathan Curtis @ EightShapes

  • A DS is a product: it has a team, customers, a backlog, a roadmap, needs funding, and needs to be sold/marketed in order to succeed
  • Your DS doesn't have to support all products from the get-go – start with your flagship product
  • A DS team needs to be:
  1. Cross-discipline and skilled in the right areas
  2. Centralized but open to contributions
  3. Endorsed by executives
  • Being a design system lead involves a lot more evangelizing & people stuff than design & code – it's not for everyone

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Building Empowering Style Guides with Practical Research

by Donna Chan and Isaak Hayes @ AppDirect

Lack of alignment is often what leads to design system failure. Use the traditional design process to avoid this:

  1. Research: interview users, builders and stakeholders
  2. Understand: gather data and formulate what problems your design system would solve
  3. Define: create principles to encapsulate those problems and use them to rally your organization behind the design system

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Code Patterns for Pattern-Making

by Miriam Suzanne @ Oddbird

  • Don't stretch for patterns – it's okay to build one-offs
  • When adding new code, it should be harder to deviate from existing patterns than to contribute to them
  • Use templates, maps and macros to abstract your HTML, Sass styles, icons etc. into reusable patterns

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Baking Accessibility In

by Cordelia McGee-Tubb @ Dropbox

  • Creating a DS is an opportunity to do the right thing by baking accessibility into patterns
  • Add accessibility documentation to your styleguide to spread awareness of best practices
  • Use this checklist to get started

Watch the talk

That's a wrap for our Clarity 2016 takeaways! :) Look out for our Clarity 2017 digest next week 👀