setting up a team

setting up a team

setting up a team

How to start working together?

How to start working together?

How to start working together?

There is nothing random about great collaboration. 

There is nothing random about great collaboration. 

There is nothing random about great collaboration. 

It is easy to understand the process and structure.

It is easy to be productive.

It is easy to contribute.

It is easy to connect.

Everything just works.

However, it takes hard work to get there. Tell me something new, ha? 


Collaboration doesn't happen organically. It is a continuous discovery of making things better and more effective, combining time, effort, and care. But how?

When trying to find the best workflow (team model), we usually start by reading millions of articles, tweets, and books and start wondering about:

OMG, so much work and so many decisions!

OMG, so much work and so

many decisions!

Which team model is "the best"?

Who is going to be our leader?

Should we flip the coin?

Yep, a lot of essential questions. Let's dive in.

Setting up a team

When setting up a team, the most popular question is always, "How many people do we need for the design system team?". Well, you can make a lot of magic with a small team or overengineer everything with a "perfect one."


But in reality, you have time or budget or, if you are lucky, both.


The initial cost is very high, and it is not easy for stakeholders to immediately give resources for the "ideal setup." So, instead of counting people, ask yourself what kind of setup will provide you with the highest added value instead of numbers. Your main goal is always to connect departments (design, development, marketing, sales) and avoid silos.



Sometimes teams need to go around the world first to figure out what they need.

(Haaa, I hope not. 😊)

When setting up a team, the most popular question is always, "How many people do we need for the design system team?". Well, you can make a lot of magic with a small team or overengineer everything with a "perfect one."


But in reality, you have time or budget or, if you are lucky, both.


The initial cost is very high, and it is not easy for stakeholders to immediately give resources for the "ideal setup." So, instead of counting people, ask yourself what kind of setup will provide you with the highest added value instead of numbers. Your main goal is always to connect departments (design, development, marketing, sales) and avoid silos.


Sometimes teams need to go around the world first to figure out what they need. (Haaa, I hope not. 😊)

When setting up a team, the most popular question is always, "How many people do we need for the design system team?". Well, you can make a lot of magic with a small team or overengineer everything with a "perfect one."


But in reality, you have time or budget or, if you are lucky, both.


The initial cost is very high, and it is not easy for stakeholders to immediately give resources for the "ideal setup." So, instead of counting people, ask yourself what kind of setup will provide you with the highest added value instead of numbers. Your main goal is always to connect departments (design, development, marketing, sales) and avoid silos.


Sometimes teams need to go around the world first to figure out what they need. (Haaa, I hope not. 😊)

Who should we add to the team?

Team Lead

Designers, Systems designers, Figma wizards

User Experience Designers

UX Writers

QA Engineers

Developers

setting up a team

setting up a team

setting up a team

Team models

As a team, we can come together through different team models. Let's go through some of the most common types.

As a team, we can come together through different team models. Let's go through some of the most common types.

As a team, we can come together through different team models. Let's go through some of the most common types.

Design Systems Team is nested under Product (the most common scenario). This team has direct responsibility to support product growth and to optimize processes. Each team fine-tunes priorities and roles down the road, but the main logic is the same everywhere:

Design Systems Team is nested under Product (the most common scenario). This team has direct responsibility to support product growth and to optimize processes. Each team fine-tunes priorities and roles down the road, but the main logic is the same everywhere:

Following agile process.

Hypothesis > Experiment > Test > Measure. And again …

Discover problems.

Test on multiple platforms, and talk with your coworkers and users.

Talking and brainstorming

There is always more than one possible solution.

Provide support

Be available for feedback—reserve time for educating people.

Have a plan to solve problems

Make some actionable tasks.

Influence

Be the influencer of good practices. People love optimized processes.

It becomes more accessible, faster, and cheaper with a transparent visual hierarchy system.

Isolated

where one team builds a design system without collaboration

where one team builds a design system without collaboration

Centralized

is in the heart of the org, but without day-to-day sync.

Immersed

allows the design system team to work hand in hand with teams.

Isolated model

In this setup, design system teams create a design system based on what they think might be best for the Product. Like a lone group of cowboys, they try to make people pull the information from the design system.


There is no flexibility in this kind of workflow because others can't contribute or collaborate with you. As a team, you don't have any alliances nor a look into daily activities, and it is more like "take or leave it." In practice, we all know what this means - many detached components and even more mess.

In this setup, design system teams create a design system based on what they think might be best for the Product. Like a lone group of cowboys, they try to make people pull the information from the design system.


There is no flexibility in this kind of workflow because others can't contribute or collaborate with you. As a team, you don't have any alliances nor a look into daily activities, and it is more like "take or leave it." In practice, we all know what this means - many detached components and even more mess.

Centralized model

In this setup design system team is at the center of the organization and serves product teams.


However, the model still needs daily collaboration or a look into the priorities of each product team. Because of that, teams start to adapt the components based on their new scenarios, and then you go back and forth with implementing the updated components into the system.

In this setup design system team is at the center of the organization and serves product teams.


However, the model still needs daily collaboration or a look into the priorities of each product team. Because of that, teams start to adapt the components based on their new scenarios, and then you go back and forth with implementing the updated components into the system.

Immersed model

I named it immersed because it combines a centralized model with an "ambassador" in each product team. The ambassador is your core contributor, and they go to the design system meetings, learn about new features, and then explain them to the team.


This model is a community-driven effort, connecting researchers, engineers, designers, team leads, etc. It ensures better quality since their input helps the design system become more valuable.


With this model, everyone in the Product can get and give feedback, making the design system team a critical part of the whole structure.

I named it immersed because it combines a centralized model with an "ambassador" in each product team. The ambassador is your core contributor, and they go to the design system meetings, learn about new features, and then explain them to the team.


This model is a community-driven effort, connecting researchers, engineers, designers, team leads, etc. It ensures better quality since their input helps the design system become more valuable.


With this model, everyone in the Product can get and give feedback, making the design system team a critical part of the whole structure.

Read in-depth articles from Nathan Curtis to learn more about team models and how to set up a team. He is definitely "the father" of design systems.

Read in-depth articles from Nathan Curtis to learn more about team models and how to set up a team. He is definitely "the father" of design systems.

Design Systems Lead 

The Design systems team needs a leader with the vision to see things in the future and enough energy to keep everyone afloat. They are the ones that try to combine both worlds and create an excellent customer experience. Sometimes, we must admit, things get tricky. A leader's job is to hold the sails tight and not allow other employees or processes to discourage the primary design system team. 

The Design systems team needs a leader with the vision to see things in the future and enough energy to keep everyone afloat. They are the ones that try to combine both worlds and create an excellent customer experience. Sometimes, we must admit, things get tricky. A leader's job is to hold the sails tight and not allow other employees or processes to discourage the primary design system team. 

Skills

great communicator

organized

systematic

Figma wizard

skillful

evangelist

systematic

can clarify scope

collaborative

visionary

skillful

evangelist

can clarify scope

product management experience

understands the development process

understands the development process

Contribution

HC

HC

HC

HC

A contribution should be Instantly understandable.

A contribution should be Instantly understandable.

A contribution should be Instantly understandable.

The workflow's essential part is allowing your coworkers to be part of the story, which means you have to set up a way to communicate.

Shared ownership creates connection and acceptance.

The workflow's essential part is allowing your coworkers to be part of the story, which means you have to set up a way to communicate. Shared ownership creates connection and acceptance.

The workflow's essential part is allowing your coworkers to be part of the story, which means you have to set up a way to communicate.

Shared ownership creates connection and acceptance.

You have multiple options for connecting with your coworkers:

You have multiple options for connecting with your coworkers:

You have multiple options for connecting with your coworkers:

Slack, Discord

Well, Slack is almost the standard. 😅 Async information is very good for informing people, but it is not enough for sharing wholesome feedback. Use these channels for prompt updates, but never instead of office hours or team calls.

Office hours

Let people connect with you, propose changes, and ask for help. Make an hour per week where anyone can join and talk with the team leader.

Weekly/bi-weekly calls

Reserve a slot on your calendar where all the leads meet and share what is happening. Additionally, you can invite other profiles as well.

Internal Newsletter

This one is usually useful when organizations are huge and you want to share insights with the whole organization in a structured way. So instead of short updates in the Slack channel, you make an internal newsletter with highlights and tutorials.

Helpful guides

Meet people where they are. Make helpful videos that they can consume async.

Learn more

Learn more

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

by Eric Ries

Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom.

Laying the Foundations: How to Design Websites and Products Systematically

by Andrew Coldwell

Laying the Foundations is a book about how to design websites and products systematically, and a comprehensive guide to creating, documenting, and maintaining design systems. It's an ideal book for web designers (of all levels) and especially web design teams.

Podcasts

Office hours

by Davy Fung + PJ Onori

Davy and PJ, design system practitioners talk about design-led product ownership, scaling and adoption, community and engagement, design system team models, and much more.

The podcast from zeroheight, where we talk to the best folks in DesignOps from around the world to help you build the best darn DesignOps practice you possibly can.

© 2022 - 2024 The Design System Guide by Romina Kavcic

Newsletter

Writing on topics such as design systems,

design process, design strategy. ✨

© 2022 - 2024 The Design System Guide by Romina Kavcic

© 2022 - 2024 The Design System Guide by Romina Kavcic