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Kathryn Grayson Nanz for CodeLand 2022

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[On-Demand Talk] Design Systems for Developers

About this talk

If you're a developer who's going to work with designers in any capacity, then chances are high that at some point you'll be presented with a design system. Understanding your way around that system will improve your understanding of how designs and prototypes are meant to be translated into code, as well as making your life easier by providing quick access to resources. A lot of devs hear the word "design" and immediately tune out, but that's a mistake! Learn what's in a design system, how they improve design/dev collaboration, and how you can get the most out of this incredible resource.

Talk Recording

Slides

🌈 Comment below and ask me questions — I might just answer them during my live speaker discussion!


About me

Hi! I'm Kathryn Grayson Nanz. I graduated with a BFA in 2013 and took my first job as junior graphic designer at a small ad agency. While there, my Creative Director warned me to never let anyone find out I could code because I'd be stuck doing it forever. I ignored this and it turns out he was 100% right — but I've never been happier. I currently work as a dev advocate where I help people build web apps in React, design/maintain component libraries, and stop back-end devs from writing CSS.


This on-demand talk is part of CodeLand 2022 — a virtual conference brought to you by CodeNewbie & DEV on June 16 & 17, 2022.

Latest comments (32)

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aigarspl profile image
Aigars Pluģis

Will definitely look over this talk again as I saw something what I could use in my own daily workflow.

Thanks for such a great talk, Kathryn!

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kristenh profile image
Kristen Harman

This was very helpful. Thank you so much!

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talib1996 profile image
M.Fahad Imtiaz

What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer?

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

More and more, that line is starting to blur! But I'd say that at the root, a web designer isn't expected to know how to code and a web developer isn't expected to know design software (like Figma). There's obviously lots of overlap (more and more with each day, it seems!), but the core skillset is different.

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talib1996 profile image
M.Fahad Imtiaz

Thanks for your reply.

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coding_marie profile image
Marie TKD

What would be a good resource for a web developer who wants to learn the basics of web design?

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christopheraaron_ profile image
Christopher Aaron

Designer + Programmer. UI/UX + Developer. I feel like as more and more people dive into the programming world, design is becoming an important skill to have. "You don't have to be a master at everything, but it's nice to dabble" really resonated with me, (and everyone on the Discord channel). Thank you for bringing design into light for us!

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carolineschettler profile image
carolineschettler

Hello!! Have you ever had to help settle major design disagreements within a team? Any examples or tips for navigating those waters?

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

Yep – design is one of those things that everyone will have opinions about, because we all interact with design as part of our everyday lives. I think the best thing you can do is to encourage everyone to step away from gut feelings or knee-jerk reactions and make decisions based on data. What do our users need? What feedback do we have on the design of this feature? Did we make an assumption about this, or do we have data to back it up?

When in doubt...get some users and do some A/B testing!

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anyanka profile image
Anja

I love design but don't have a professional background so I was looking forward to this talk very much. That was great, thank you! :)

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devencourt profile image
brian bethencourt

You talked a bit about component libraries — I'm new to coding and have never used one before. Any tips for putting one together OR working with one?

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

Absolutely! I'd recommend checking out this blog post I wrote: dev.to/kathryngrayson/case-study-b...

That will go over all the parts of a component library and how to build them. And feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all!

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necolanch profile image
Nicholas Cruz

I also have a background in graphic design but doing freelance. I love having that because I feel like I can leverage that aspect of myself and my eye for aesthetic rather than solely having developer skills. How was your experience with having that background when initially looking for a developer position?

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

These days, I try to use it as a selling point, as much as I can – as you mentioned, it can really be something useful, something else you can bring to the table in ADDITION to your dev skills! When speaking with potential employers, I try to highlight that as much as possible.

When I was first starting, I was almost ashamed of it. I felt a lot of embarrassment over not having a Computer Sciences degree, and I often kind of glossed over design-related things and tried to steer the conversation towards dev topics as much as possible. I wanted people to see me as a developer and take me seriously that way – and at first, I thought my design degree undermined that.

Now, I wish I had embraced my design skills earlier in my career and really leaned into that as the unique selling point that it is. We're designer/dev hybrid unicorns!! That's really awesome

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hussain_codes profile image
Hussain Codes

This talk taught me a lot! I always wondered how huge teams manage to make such consistently beautiful designs in their products and I got my answer in this talk! Design tokens, component libraries, style guides, WOW! This is such a systematic and organised way of doing things and also makes me less scared of approaching the front-end as a developer.

Thank you so much for the great talk! @kathryngrayson

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington • Edited

Excellent talk, Kathryn!

How has interacting with other open source contributors and maintainers helped you deal with impostor's syndrome?

So sorry, I posted this question in the wrong post. I have all the talks open so I can ask questions and I just got mixed up. 😊

However, I do have a question for you!!

I meant to ask:

Why exactly does bad or inconsistent design result in a lack of trust? And what is the consequence of eroding that trust in the client or end user?

Your talk really was awesome! 🙌

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

Hey there! Glad you enjoyed the talk! Also, excellent question.

So design has a huge overlap with trust. Imagine walking into a physical store that was messy, cluttered, uncomfortable, or made you feel unsafe in some way – you'd probably leave and not come back, right? Websites are the same way.

When we're building an app or website, we're almost always asking a user to trust us with something – that could be personal data (account information, email address, personal information, etc), financial data (credit card numbers, bank routing numbers), etc.

If you've ever accidentally opened a phishing or scam email before, you've seen design that doesn't look trustworthy. Things just look "off" – unprofessional, careless, inconsistent, etc. Those things have become visual red flags to us. Users have come to expect a certain amount of professionalism and polish in a site/app, and if we don't deliver it...we run the risk of not feeling trustworthy.

The consequences to this usually start with reduced interaction (not feeling comfortable inputting information) and end with simply not using the app or website at all.

Let me know if this answers your question!

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thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt

Why do you think it is that many software developers don't demonstrate curiosity when it comes to design? Isn't design an inherent part of building anything? 😃

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

I think a lot of folks have bought into the myth that art and design are something special that you have to have "the eye" for, or some kind of natural talent or disposition. And if that's the position you're coming from, then yeah, why bother, right? I don't believe this is true – design is a science and anyone can (and should!) learn it. I agree very much with what you said about design being an inherent part of building. The more you level up your design skills, the more you'll see the benefits everywhere: not just picking out colors or setting type. It's a problem-solving mindset that you'll always be able to leverage!

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thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt

Thanks for your reply ! 😁🌈

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zhurai profile image
Hana • Edited

Hello! Based off the talk and some of the chat in the Discord earlier (especially your comment "you don't have to be a master at everything, but it's nice to dabble")

My question is how would you recommend someone that has mostly/only been in the development/IT side to learn basic design in general (and/or UI/UX design, I am unsure how the different types of design is classified)?

Thank you again for the talk!

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kathryngrayson profile image
Kathryn Grayson Nanz

Hey there! There are a few resources I'd recommend:

But mostly, you just gotta start designing stuff and practice practice practice! I wish I could say there was a magic wand, but there's not. The more you do it, the more you will learn and improve!

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hellotjphan profile image
TJ Phan

I'm presumed that companies already use some sort of design system to keep communication and consistency in touch. I might be in for a surprise!

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mburkhardt52 profile image
Michael Burkhardt

That was fantastic! Especially for someone like me that hasn't really dipped into design.