Design System Governance

How do we evolve our systems over time?

sculpture of Lady Justice blindfolded and holding balance scales
Lady Justice balancing the pros and cons. Photo credit: Unsplash

Once a design system is up and running, how do we evolve it to bring in new patterns or best practices? What do we tell our users when they can’t find something they need in the system, or are tempted to break a pattern for their specific use case? How do we know if a new pattern or component should be added to the system?

Governance and maintenance is essential for living digital systems, and like many pioneers in the world of design systems, the Cedar Design System team is figuring out how to answer these questions as we go.

(Hint: communication, experimentation, and building strong partnerships are some of the keys to success we’ve learned so far.)

Earlier this year, I was interviewed by Dan Mall on the “Get It Out of Your System” podcast on this topic — check it out:

“What’s the most difficult thing about design systems you’re facing right now?” is a loaded question to say the least, but an easy topic to dive into! While I’m still a bit self-conscious hearing myself speak 🙉, I always enjoy getting to geek out about design systems, and appreciate listening in on some the challenges that other systems teams face in this awesome podcast series.

Note: this was recorded back in pre-covid days, so we’ve certainly come up against some new challenges that’s forced our team structure and roadmap to adapt — not everything in this interview is still 100% accurate, but the topic of how we can evolve our design system is as relevant as ever.

Digital professional, creative life. Product manager for design systems at REI.