The creative director, author and speaker explains why design systems are so important
Dan Mall explores the reasons why design systems are so important
You’re well known in the web design community for your books, talks and work with big clients. But can you introduce yourself to those who might not know you? DM: Hi, I’m Dan, a creative director and advisor from Philly. I’m founder and director of SuperFriendly, a design collaborative that brings creative direction and design to some the world’s most important and interesting organisations. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of SuperBooked, a service that helps you find work with a little help from your friends. You’ve just launched a course about design systems. What can you tell us about that? DM: It’s a video-based course on Skillshare about how to create and work with design systems and get your colleagues on board. A design system is a tool to make you more efficient and effective in your work. It should help you move faster, work better with other people and, honestly, just have more fun.
One thing I see designers and developers doing over and over again is reinventing the wheel. How many times do you want to design that button, form or the really dry parts of a project? A design system should take care of that stuff. So, over this course, I break down my principles and processes of design systems, so you can spend less time doing the boring and monotonous stuff and more time having fun. Why do you think everyone is talking about design systems right now? DM: When I was learning web design 20 years ago, most of my clients needed help making their first website. Now, I tend to work with organisations managing lots of digital products likes websites and apps. Because of this volume, a lot of them are finding it hard to create consistency and efficiency. At this scale, it becomes very apparent how much money and time is being wasted needlessly reinventing the wheel. A design system is a great tool to help solve this problem. Design systems are trendy at the moment, so is there a danger people will use them for the wrong reasons and for the wrong purposes? DM: Of course! With great power comes great responsibility and having a design system is a lot of power. For example, one of the outcomes of having a design system is to free up designers from designing the same thing over and over and instead spend time on more important and interesting things. However, people could use a design system to put their designers out of a job instead. That’s bad news for everyone! Your course is hosted on Skillshare, a platform that lets people create instructional videos and charge people a subscription to access them. What attracted you to this method of teaching? DM: I initially learned how to be a web designer largely through a combination of school and reading books and blog posts. But what I’m finding in teaching a younger generation of designers and developers is that they’re less interested in books and articles than they are in video tutorials. I haven’t had good luck in finding a lot of great video resources, so I figured I could have a hand in creating some myself. What was it like filming the course? Is it really as easy as you make it look? DM: Haha, it’s definitely not as easy as it looks! There’s lots of prep and editing and back and forth that goes into making something even short. That said, the Skillshare team made it super easy for me to execute. Once we had the main content and structure together, the filming part was pretty streamlined because they made it really straightforward in what we needed to capture. You can sign up to ‘Digital Design: Creating Design Systems for Easier, Better & Faster Design’ at skl.sh/superfriendly