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DESIGN THAT SCALES by Dan Mall Kirkus Star


Creating a Sustainable Design System Practice

by Dan Mall

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 2023
ISBN: 9781959029212
Publisher: Rosenfeld Media

Mall offers a plan for implementing digital design systems that will suit all users.

In his nonfiction debut, the author, a creative director, designer, and entrepreneur, lays out a detailed plan for making and implementing design systems in ways to make them useful and flourish rather than ending up in the “design system graveyards” he’s encountered many times in his long history of working with clients. He defines a “design system” as a software package “that contains the smallest set of components and guidelines a particular organization needs to make digital products consistently, efficiently, and happily.” Offering perhaps the most accessible example in the world—outlining how various Google functions such as searches, email, and documents all work the same way, at any scale, every time—Mall describes the ways such system designs are typically constructed and how they usually go awry. Addressing the ways things go wrong leads the author to a broader viewpoint that encompasses more than simple user-interface concerns. Mall champions a perspective that would ideally lead to a wider adoption of system designs and their components on the “cultural” level of corporations, all with the end goal of creating a toolkit everybody can use instead of re-creating each tool each time, because “Life and work have way more to offer than wasting your days making the same data table from scratch over and over again.” Mall conveys a vast amount of information with wonderful ease in these pages, which are full of colorful illustrations, tables, and even bits of code. He grounds his discussions of the various design system expressions in both annotated research and real-world examples such as Google and WordPress. The narrative tone throughout is both optimistic and gently chiding about the most common implementation mistakes he’s seen. His vision for design systems will be extremely useful to systems engineers at all levels.

A lively and paradigm-challenging evaluation of what makes good system designs work at any scale.