Building Scalable Design Systems

Nathan Curtis · Wednesday, November 15 · 8:30am – 5:30pm · in Plaza B

Build a cohesive cross-product experience with defined standards and workflows. Document reusable solutions to empower your system’s users to work independently.

Make critical design changes in one place that seamlessly unfold everywhere. Practice systems to smoothly operate a systems team, drive product adoption, and establish a community of contributors.

At last year’s UI21, and the previous UI20 conference, Nathan led this workshop to rave reviews, delivering a room full of designers the techniques for creating their own scalable design systems.

The Day’s Agenda


Planning your design system

  • Create a cohesive experience across products with standards, assets, and workflows
  • Explore the who, what, where, and how of your design system with a design system worksheet
  • Involve teammates to develop content, refine design standards, and advocate the mission

Designing the system

  • Define your system with reference designs, starting with style tiles and concepts
  • Deconstruct system parts and code including core visual language, components, and layouts
  • Organize your library into topics and assets everyone understands


Documenting your design system

  • Create artifacts to achieve consistency with style guides, system sites, and guidelines
  • Tokenize design options and decisions for use across products and platforms
  • Showcase pages and elements that you’ve made easily to design and build

Establish a solid design system practice

  • Prioritize the work with sprints, backlogs, and team notifications
  • Conduct design clinics, demos, and audits to maintain standards and team cohesiveness
  • Foster design and development convergence across large, multi-disciplinary teams

Reduce Chaos through Structure and Processes

Deliver a cohesive experience across all product lines

All too often, organizations have multiple products that are disjointed and inconsistent. With a design system, your teams will have a framework to align on standards and processes.

Codify a system to encourage re-use across products

If you have multiple design teams and development teams doing duplicate work, it results in a decentralized system that’s expensive to maintain and evolve. The design system will save your organization time and money.

Align design and development teams

By identifying the reusable standards and elements, you create a common language that speeds communication between team members.

You’ll see how to:

  • Create a library to articulate standards across all product lines
  • Improve your design conversations with reusable components
  • Identify and prioritize patterns for product consistency
  • Communicate across teams using a shared design vocabulary
  • Establish a smoothly operating system team that releases predictably
  • Use cross-product standards to design and build better products

Optimize Design and Development with the Design System

Achieve product cohesiveness

Deconstruct your system parts to re-use across products, leading to a more consistent and delightful user experience.

Streamline cross-team communication

With a design system, you will identify the standards, patterns, and components that become shorthand in the design process, bringing the design discussions to a higher level.

Speed up the product development process

Collaborate on a design system composed of a style guide and code assets that your developers will recognize immediately. Not only will your developers know what you’re looking for, but it’s likely the code is largely reusable, which means you’ll release products faster.

Influence product strategy

Once the system comes together, you will have designers, developers, and product managers aligned on common design standards and motivated to bridge the gap between products.

Build a Design System and Style Guide

Throughout the day, Nathan will share great stories of how teams successfully built and disseminated design systems across their organizations. He’ll share the serious mistakes others have made (and how to avoid making them yourself).

You’ll spend a large part of the day building style guides, system sites, and guidelines to use as a starting point to achieve consistency across your products. You will go back to work with a solid roadmap for adopting a design system within your organization.

Nathan Curtis

Photo of Nathan Curtis

Here’s what Jared says about why he chose Nathan for UI22…

Go back just a few years: Nobody was talking about how you build a library of your own application and organization-specific design elements. Nobody, that is, except Nathan Curtis, who’s been practicing and speaking on design systems for 10 years, and, in 2009, wrote Modular Web Design: Creating Reusable Components for User Experience Design and Documentation. Nathan saw how the real value of pattern libraries comes when organizations can use them to create their own standards and consistent designs.

Nathan Curtis has been swimming in the deep end of the UX pool since 1996, when he started focusing his creative energies on IA, ID, usability, and front-end development. He’s also an entrepreneur at heart, having founded, along with Dan Brown, the renowned EightShapes in Washington, DC, where he continues to make a splash today.

Nathan’s been a top workshop speaker at the User Interface Conference before and his All You Can Learn seminars are loved by our audiences. We’re excited to bring him back to deliver this brand new in-depth workshop. You’ll see why.

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