Creating and Evolving a Cross-Platform System at Scale

The design challenges we face are becoming larger in scale and and more complex. As designers and developers, we need more systematic and abstracted methods to continue building great products.

The past couple of years, Airbnb has been systemizing UI design & development on web and mobile platforms with a design language system (DLS). In this talk, Karri Saarinen, Principal Designer at Airbnb discusses what are their learnings and challenges in creating and evolving a cross-platform system for a large, fast growing and design lead product company.

Getting Your Design System Off The Ground

Introducing a design system successfully doesn’t happen overnight. It often takes months, if not years, to create full adoption and use of your system. In it’s early stages your system can feel like it isn’t working or providing value. So, how do you get your design system up and running?

In this talk, Joey Zingarelli, Product Designer at Pinterest, shares practical tips on how to get your team designing and building your product within a new set of rules and guidelines. He talks about how to avoid the pitfalls of enforcement and get your system to empower, rather than hinder, your team.

You vs. The Design System They Told You Not to Worry About

While some companies have full-time teams of designers and developers, some can only do design systems work in their spare time. As an individual contributor, you may feel pressured to be a great engineer as well as hone your visual and interactions skills—or maybe you enjoy both but find companies often make you choose one over the other?

Despite being in the fortunate position of working with full-time design systems team, Diana Mounter, Design Systems Manager at GitHub, is not immune from feeling imposter syndrome or envy towards design systems team. Diana will share some real-talk behind design systems work, taking a look at industry examples in comparison to her own experiences, how they strive to do things at GitHub and what the future might hold.

Communicating Design Principles at Scale

Communicating the intent behind a new design system isn’t simple. You need to get the work out of the minds of the designers who crafted it and into use by others. For Material Design, which strives to meet the needs of a wide range of brands, the need to balance customization with consistency raises the challenge.

Rich Fulcher, Head of Material Design at Google shares how he and the Material team have approached educating designers and developers about getting the most of Material Design. From design principles to documentation, he’ll offer practical techniques for bringing a design system to life.

Julie Stanescu
Designing a Comprehensive Color System

Color is subjective, emotional, and complex. How do you design a cohesive color system for your product that is both emotive and branded, but also usable, accessible, and flexible enough for the future?

In this talk, Linda will take you through how their design systems team at Lyft took a mathematical approach to build Lyft’s new color system (Spectrum). 

Linda shared how they created a color system that both designers and engineers can understand, the tools they made to develop and share their palettes, and how they approached a scalable system built to take Lyft through future brand refreshes and app redesigns.

Collaboration Through Change

There is no one way that works for growing companies and scaling teams during different stages of growth. Processes change depending on scale, shifts in team culture, and how the company works. As the company grows, bottlenecks suddenly appear as an indicator of the increasing complexity of the organization. How do you ensure there is team alignment & effective collaboration during different stages of growth: Early Stage, Middle Stage, Late Stage?

In this talk, Frank Yoo, Director of Design at Lyft, shares practical examples and strategies he has used along the way as a principle stakeholder at Lyft to navigate the transitions at different stages of growth.

Using Framer at Scale

Designing products at scale is challenging. Solutions often take years to build and they need to work across languages, backgrounds, and contexts.

In this talk, Jeff Smith, Product Designer at Facebook, speaks to how Framer has been a critical tool in his process, designing for 2 billion people at Facebook and shares his workflow using it to get a product from concept to launch.

The Prototyping Process

It seems like every year, there’s a new hot prototyping tool. But how do you know what tools are worth investing time in? Isn’t knowing one enough?

Learn from Shana Hu, Product Designer at Pinterest, how keeping key prototyping principles in mind can help you make smarter decisions about your design tools and process. Shana shares how she decides when to use which tool, including why she uses Framer to dynamically generate layouts and pull in real data.

Provocative Prototyping

Our best ideas often start out by looking like really bad ideas. Prototyping can be an effective way to spread new ideas and help others see an idea the same way we see it.

In this talk, Zach Johnston, Product Designer at Dropbox walked us through how to communicate ambitious design ideas through prototypes and shared how he and the team at Dropbox have used prototyping to shake up traditional thinking. 

Zach turned our focus to two modes of prototyping: 

  1. Prototyping to understand

  2. Prototyping to be understood

Prototyping to understand

This is the explorative prototyping when you create dozens of prototypes all trying to solve the same problem. The goal of this prototyping method is to try to figure something out and understand an idea for yourself. Ultimately, we want to figure out the answer for ourselves, how does this feel in our hands.

Prototyping to be understood

This type of prototyping is focused on selling an idea, conveying an idea, getting buy-in from your stakeholders on a project that may have a major impact or simply getting people to understand that idea in the same way that you do. This type of prototyping is extremely powerful since it keeps explaining that idea over and over again without you being in the room.

How do you know when it’s time to switch mode from one type to another?

Zach would argue the importance of prototyping to be understood as being effective in three key moments: 

  • To simplify a complex solution - When you’re trying to explain your idea to someone, but people don’t quite get it, use prototyping to simplify something that seems super complex to others down into something that is really simple and just makes sense.

  • To provoke a discussion - If people are ignoring your idea, help them engage and get real critical feedback

  • To spread an idea - Use prototyping to convey the message across the entire company. Get people excited to engage with the idea, talk about, build on.

Zach, summed up his talk by talking about four practical tips that are useful when switching modes. 

1. Invest in a foundation

As soon as you realize that you’re going from lots of small prototypes into one epic big prototype it’s time to take a step back and invest in a foundation. Often prototypes take weeks or months to be built. A solid foundation helps designers and engineers understand your space, how things work, and have them build on that idea. 

2. Cut corners

This helps you to save time for yourself and for your users. Start with a kit. Think from your user's point of view about what is necessary to convey the idea. 

3. Test that the prototype is usable

Ensure people don’t struggle to see what is clickable what is not. If necessary, add some guidance to the prototypes. Make it feel more like a walk through than a click adventure. 

4. Share with context

Give people insight into what ’s the point of this prototype. Create a document which includes a short introduction, the general purpose of the prototype, a walk through the prototype. 

Most importantly, Zach leaves us with a question: What ideas are you working on today that you can use prototyping to help people understand? What idea is ready to be understood? 

Design for Confrontation, Design for Growth

In today’s increasingly frictionless world, it’s easier than ever to avoid confrontation. The products and services we love are isolating us from different and opposing perspectives. We're becoming less empathetic and resilient people. But what if these products could help us overcome adversity, too?

In this talk, Steve shares thoughts on why design — and the products we love — need to help people develop the mindset and skills to constructively confront themselves, their fears, and each other.

Julie Stanescu
Building Appropriate Design Teams

Every designer is unique: they have different skill sets, strengths, and interests. Every company is also unique. They have different cultures, products, and challenges. So how do you match one with the other? How do you make sure that the design team you build is going to be successful within the context of your organization? 

In this talk, Joel shares a framework and his lessons learned on how to structure design teams that meet business and organizational needs, how to determine who to hire, and how to set those hires up for success.

Julie Stanescu
The Imposter's Design System

Looking around you might think all Design Systems enter the world fully formed, built by elite teams and empowered by executive mandate. Nothing could be further from the truth. For many of us, what appears authoritative today, at one point was a hustle. What seems polished now, was at one point a hack. If you look to the start, you won't find anything awe-inspiring. What you will find is an imposter with a plan.

In this talk, Ed shares practical strategies for influencing adoption and building authority so that you can transform your aspirational design system into the real deal.



Julie Stanescu
The System Always Kicks Back

Congratulations! You’ve launched a design system. Everyone loves it. Everything is great! But… Now what? Lucky for you, building a successful system is just the first step.

Last year, Shopify launched Polaris — a multi-year effort that brought Shopify’s experience together. In this talk, Kyle uses examples from ongoing efforts with the UX team at Shopify to keep Polaris working.

He covers how we’ve grown the system and the challenges we’ve encountered along the way. He talks about scaling the team and scaling the system while making sure it all doesn't fall apart. Through it all, he shared some light on the new problems you should expect after you build a successful system at your company.

About the Speaker

Kyle Peatt | Director of UX at Shopify | @kpeatt

Kyle enjoys problems. Lucky for him, leading Product UX at Shopify provides plenty of opportunities to think about complicated interconnected problems and try to come up with simple, powerful solutions.  As Director of UX, Kyle leads interdisciplinary teams across content, research, design, and front-end development to create great experiences to help Shopify’s hundreds of thousands of merchants. He also enjoys a good game of crib.

Effective Collaboration Between Designers and Engineers

A designer’s job doesn’t end when the best experience is captured in mocks or even prototypes. It’s only complete when that experience is shipped and in people’s hands. This often hinges on how well design collaborates with their engineering counterparts.

In this talk, Tina Chen (Sr Product Design Manager @Slack) and Garrett Miller (Sr. Engineer at Slack) go through some examples of design and engineering partnerships that allow both roles to thrive and rapidly ship polished products.

They discuss about how to build strong design and engineering relationships, bringing engineering in early in the product design process, how to conduct design and technical explorations in parallel, and how to communicate specs and polish without introducing friction.

Julie Stanescu
The Psychology of Designing for VR

Virtual Reality is unlike any other medium you have ever designed for. It has the unique challenge of being -cross-disciplinary amongst many fields of design. Further, it also requires a level of familiarity with human biology and psychology.

When VR is done well, it has the possibility of providing a deep level of immersion and presence. If done poorly, it can even negatively impact a person’s health. With so many possibilities and open-ended questions, where would one even begin to consider designing for VR?

Join Chris No and discover the strange but fascinating effects VR has from a psychological and physiological perspective, why these matters and how to use them to your own advantage.

Designing for Social VR

In this talk, Christophe Tauziet goes over the process and behind the scenes of designing Facebook Spaces, Facebook’s first Social VR experience.

He shares examples and explorations that led to the final product, and some useful takeaways while exploring questions like: what’s different about designing for VR? How do you rethink interactions that people have every day on Facebook for a completely new medium like Virtual Reality? What makes a good VR interface?

About the Speaker

Christophe Tauziet | Product Design Manager @Facebook | @christauziet

Christophe is a product designer at Facebook, leading the design of the company’s Social VR efforts. Prior to that, Christophe led the design work of the Facebook Photos team, and worked on Connected and developer products like FB Login. Before joining Facebook, Christophe worked as a designer at Apple and led design at Parse.

How to Be a Strong Leader Without Sacrificing Who You Are

When you think of the word "leader", what or who comes to mind? What do you see? Why? 

In this talk, Emily Luke, Head of UX Design at Thoughtworks Products explores the way we see and define leaders and leadership. 

She dives into these perceptions and how she had to grapple with them in her own journey into leadership. You'll leave with a better sense of how to personalize your leadership style with confidence, without feeling like you have to fake it.

About the Speaker

Emily Luke | Head of UX Design @ThoughtWorks Products | @emilyeatskale

Emily is Head of UX Design at ThoughtWorks Products, the products division of a consultancy that builds cool stuff for software development teams. Her career as a designer started in grade school with countless hours of diorama building and cardboard fort-making. Other careers before this have included: non-profit fundraiser, copywriter/editor, content strategist, and consultant. She lives for making the complex simple and eats way too much ice cream. 

Building Effective Teams With Retrospectives

Every team is different and has different needs. Additionally, products go through multiple phases of development so teams working effectively in one phase may struggle in a new phase.

Jennifer Lin, Engineering Manager at Instagram shares how agile retrospectives are a powerful tool to iterating towards a happy, productive, and efficient product teams. She gives examples of how she has used retrospectives to run extremely different teams as well as carrying a single team through multiple phases of product development. 

By the end of the talk, you will understand how to use retrospectives to receive regular feedback on how to iterate on processes your team will actually appreciate.

About the Speaker

Jennifer Lin | Engineering Manager @Instagram | @_jennylin

Jennifer heads up the web teams at Instagram.

She draws upon almost 20 years of industry experience in her role as an engineering manager. When she’s not working, she is competing in either bridge or curling.

Product Illustration at Scale

Illustration has made its way into product design in a big way and shows no signs of slowing down. But as illustration gains screen space, our understanding of how/when to use it strategically falls behind.

In this talk, Meg covers what it means to make product illustration accessible to an entire organization, and the role education plays in extending the reach of any specialty team. She shares examples of what it means to keep multiple illustrators speaking from the same voice, and how they learned to change their tone to suit the many needs of the product. 

About the Speaker 

Meg Robichaud | Illustration Lead @Shopify | @megdraws

Meg is an illustrator and designer based out of Vancouver, Canada. She works to advocate for illustrators as designers and thinks about illustration as part of a larger design system. She leads the illustration team at Shopify, where she helped build the design system, Polaris. Before Shopify Meg worked as a freelance illustrator where she focused on connecting the marketing voice and product voice through illustration.

Thinking in Symbols for Universal Design

Benjamin’s talk touches on the internationalization and localization of design elements, and how might we design with consistency for multiple interface targets like Android, iOS, Virtual Reality, or even Natural Language interfaces. He’ll dive into how to apply the same techniques and principles to design a chatbot, or a telephone autoresponder, or confidently design for 90 different languages.

In this talk, Benjamin shared some examples of how Airbnb is already doing this, some predictions of where this is going, and wrap up with some practical takeaways.

About the Speaker

Benjamin Wilkins | Design Technologist @AirBnB | @ thatbenlifetho

Benjamin Wilkins is a founding member of the Design Technology team at AirBnB, working on scaling design through systems, tools, and emerging technology. Prior to working at AirBnB, he worked cross-functionally with a number of early stage startups before partnering to start This is After, a design collective focused on generative design and identities.