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Content design systems: writing guidelines for components, patterns, and beyond

I’ve always been something of a SNOOT.

And as such, I love rules. Garner’s Modern American Usage? Love it. David Foster Wallace’s 62-page review of Garner’s Modern American Usage? Love it even more. So when I first found I could put both my passion for grammar and mechanics and my obsessive-compulsive tendencies to work via design systems, I was intrigued.

Baby steps
I’ve always been something of a style guide nut, and making glossaries comes naturally to me. At Vimeo, I expanded my purview into best practices for localization and accessibility, and eventually partnered with with UI engineers and designers on a Github-hosted guide to writing at Vimeo. This guide included rules and tips around common components and patterns—my first foray into the world of coded design guidelines.

Better, faster, speedier, prettier, stronger
At Spotify, I’ve continued my design and content systems work and partnered with designers, engineers, and fellow UX writers to produce a shared set of guidelines for web content and design. We believe our work will make the lives of our design/eng compatriots easier, and ensure a high-quality experience for artists and listeners using Spotify.

Some of my recent contributions in this arena include:

In the latter, I helped my systems designer friends distill some of their key takeaways from a series of meetings and interviews with their counterparts at Material Design, Facebook, Lyft, Airbnb, the BBC, and more. The top 5 things? Well, since you asked…

  1. Design Systems are products, too.

  2. Work with what you’ve got.

  3. Not accessible? Not usable.

  4. Principles first, tactics later.

  5. Experiment or expire.

Intrigued? Read more on spotify.design.

Design systems are
products, too.
— Spotify Design Friends
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