Cintia
Romero

Sr. Product Designer, Design System at Pinterest

Sr. Product Designer, Design System
at Pinterest

Cintia Romero is a designer with over 12 years of experience in creating products and experiences across multiple platforms. Originally from Brazil, she is a proud Latina, currently working as a Senior Product Designer at Pinterest, working on Gestalt, Pinterest's Design System. In addition to building components, documentation, and Figma libraries, Cintia is passionate about design education, accessibility best practices, and inclusive design. 

Can you walk us through the current state of the design system you're involved with?

I work on Gestalt, the Pinterest design system.

Our system comprises foundational standards, component documentation, and guidelines that help to provide our users with high-quality experiences. Initially created by engineers to streamline their workflow and ensure a cohesive and accessible product experience on the web, Gestalt has since evolved to cater to the needs of every cross-functional team member, including designers, engineers, and product managers, and now strives to cover iOS and Android better needs by expanding our mobile assets and guidelines.

We are still evolving every day, and our goal is to power every aspect of Pinterest's product experience, Pinner, and business side by providing a shared language and reusable code to facilitate cross-functional collaboration, prevent duplication of efforts, create room for creativity, and establish design cohesion.

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Pinterest won three design system awards this year.

Best Collaboration

People's choice Public Vote Award

Best Article from Ravi L.
How Pinterest’s design systems team measures adoption

What tools do you use to build and maintain your design system?

We have the privilege to have fantastic engineers who help us craft custom solutions that suit our unique needs. However, we use some of the most widely used industry tools to facilitate seamless operations. We use Figma to manage our design libraries and have an open-source system. You can check our documentation by visiting gestalt.pinterest.system

We also use Google Analytics to evaluate our surveys and Mixpanel to measure our internal Figma design plugin. As we scale, we strive to keep up with our user's needs, so we are always on the lookout for more inclusive ways to build a robust foundation.

OUR TOOLS:

Figma

Custom Figma plugin

Custom tool FigStats

Google Analytics

Mixpanel

How do you balance the need for consistency with the desire for creative freedom among your designers?

By having a library of pre-made components and styles at our disposal, we can focus on creating a great user experience rather than creating the same elements repeatedly. However, in some instances, such as experimental usage, usage on internal tools, or other specific surfaces, it may be necessary to bypass certain restrictions to achieve a particular outcome unavailable on the system. In such situations, we encourage designers to attend our office hours sessions to discuss potential solutions and guide them towards the best approach, even if it deviates a bit from the Gestalt guidelines.

We also recommend staying true to Pinterest's patterns and Gestalt design tokens and accounting for accessibility standards. By being aware of these cases, we can improve our system, keep things under control, and create an accessible and cohesive product experience.

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By having a library of pre-made components and styles at our disposal, we can focus on creating a great user experience rather than creating the same elements repeatedly.

By having a library of pre-made components and styles at our disposal, we can focus on creating a great user experience rather than creating the same elements repeatedly.

How do you stay true to your vision for the design system, even when faced with external pressures or trends?

Much of my work is focused on the community spec of Gestalt! It includes comms, training, library quality, and chats with designers. I recognize the importance of providing design service by offering assets, tools, and guidance to keep our product delightful, consistent, and inclusive. It includes dialogue! At Gestalt, we prioritize listening to our users, balancing their needs with our business needs, and being aware of the latest trends and how they align with Pinterest's goals and Gestalt roadmap. It helps us to stay true to our vision and keep evolving. 

How does your team collaborate on the design system?

Team support section

Office hours

Slack channel

Trainings

Collaboration, Feedback

We recently won the "Best Collaboration" at the Design System Awards. Yay! So we are all about collaboration.

We created a Team Support section in our documentation to display all the different ways our design systems users can contribute or get support; we hold Office Hours twice a week, we manage Slack channels for designers and engineers, unblocking teams as fast as we can and guaranteeing they use our system appropriately.

Besides, we offer specific training for designers and cross-functional partners to advance their knowledge of the design system, including accessibility. We regularly collaborate with product teams to develop and ship components directly supporting specific initiatives. Ultimately, we're building more robust components and patterns by collaborating with product teams.

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Adoption gives us a great sign of success. If people use your assets, you are doing great and promoting an excellent service.

Adoption gives us a great sign of success. If people use your assets, you are doing great and promoting an excellent service.

Are you tracking your design system? If you had to choose one metric to measure the success of your design system, what would it be and why?

Adoption gives us a great sign of success. If people use your assets, you are doing great and promoting an excellent service. We have a fantastic article by Ravi Linginen explaining how Gestalt measures adoption. 

By the way, Ravi's article also won the Design System Awards ("Best article" category).

We use Figma’s REST API to calculate design adoption across our files. Our custom tool, FigStats, calculates and monitors this metric. We shared a way other teams could also utilize our work. I invite you to read Ravi's article to learn more. 

Also, the sentiment! Understanding how our users feel about our system and resources is important, as well as how I can work with my team to do better for them. 

If you could go back and change one decision you made in your design system journey, what would it be and why?

I strongly advocate the Pinterest value of "Win or Learn." Every experience, whether it brings success or failure, allows one to grow and learn as an individual and a team. 

One example I can share is keeping our Figma libraries updated with the latest tools. I could have done it differently by waiting for the evolving tools before diving deep into it. I was too excited about the Config announcements, hahaha! Who else? 

I changed our styles to variables immediately, and it didn't go as expected. It created confusion and loads of information, and folks needed more time to prepare for this update. So I had to revert the change. It affected my system's journey as I got some coworkers on it with me, and time is precious. In the end, it impacts our roadmap.

Lesson: It is better to wait, gather more information, and let the tool evolve. It will lead to better outcomes. And it did! With more preparation, we have migrated from styles to variables. And we are still conducting tests to make sure it is successful.

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I strongly advocate the Pinterest value of "Win or Learn." Every experience, whether it brings success or failure, allows one to grow and learn as an individual and a team. 

I strongly advocate the Pinterest value of "Win or Learn." Every experience, whether it brings success or failure, allows one to grow and learn as an individual and a team. 

Do you use any kind of automation or AI tools?

Yes! Our Pinterest Design plugin supports us in many ways, enabling us to work faster and smarter with automation. Folks can add Pinterest images directly to designs, export icons in production-ready formats, migrate color styles to tokens, and reference our design system documentation within Figma.

Lately, I've been experimenting with generative AI in our design system Slack channels to help streamline our communication and direct people to the guidelines they need. It's still a work in progress and still in the learning and exploration phase.

In addition, I've been using Grammarly's AI tools to summarize my notes, which has been an enormous time-saver. Generative AI has the potential to save us even more time in the future.

I'm looking forward to trying out Figma's AI features, as there is so much more to explore in this exciting field!

Where do you see design systems heading in the next few years?

We aim to create consistency across all platforms and grow system adoption and contributions. That’s why I believe it won't change. It is all about community.

I see design systems continue the efforts of unifying experiences, reshaping the contribution process with cross-functional partners, leveling up the quality of docs and components, moving towards a more inclusive design approach, and leveraging automation and AI.

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Design system isn't only design-related. It's a cross-functional effort that can benefit multiple areas by streamlining processes and creating a more cohesive work environment.

Design system isn't only design-related. It's a cross-functional effort that can benefit multiple areas by streamlining processes and creating a more cohesive work environment.

What's one thing you wish more people understood about design systems?

Even if we say the word design system, it isn't only design-related. It's a cross-functional effort that can benefit multiple areas by streamlining processes and creating a more cohesive work environment. It is a community effort that goes beyond design.

In your opinion, what are the most overrated and underrated aspects of design systems?

Overrated

Creating components and documentation

Creating components and documentation

Underrated

Building relationships.

While creating components and documentation are undoubtedly important aspects of our system, I believe the user's sentiment is the most underrated part. As a service design team, we aim to provide solutions that make our users work faster and more efficiently. Therefore, ensuring that we're meeting their needs and expectations is crucial. By focusing on our users' sentiments and granular feedback, we can ensure that our components and guidelines are effective and well-received, leading to increased adoption and growth.

If you could have a coffee chat with any person from the design (system) space, who would it be and why?

Wow, so many folks! I'm super grateful to be part of such a strong community and have met fantastic folks along my journey on design systems.

But if I needed to pick one, let's say Ayesha Mazrana! She was one of my mentors and coworkers. She moved away, and I miss working with her. I would love to grab a coffee and catch up on systems and life! She is a gem.

Coffee with Ayesha Mazrana 😍

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Inclusive design is key to creating products that are accessible and useful to everyone, so we should prioritize inclusivity in our design process.

Inclusive design is key to creating products that are accessible and useful to everyone, so we should prioritize inclusivity in our design process.

What's one piece of advice that you would like people to remember from this interview?

Collaboration and community are at the heart of design systems. We do things for people! And when we talk about people, we mean people with different backgrounds, abilities, and needs. As designers, it's essential to take the time to understand our user's needs and align them with our business needs. 

Inclusive design is key to creating products that are accessible and useful to everyone, so we should prioritize inclusivity in our design process. You can reach (and help) many more folks with your system!

What's your favorite thing to do when you are not in design systems?

I recently discovered that I love a Fitness lifestyle! So, I'm always working out at Orange Theory Fitness (I like to try different studios) and hiking around the gorgeous Bay Area with my husband and dog. Besides, I enjoy playing percussion instruments. Music is always a great way to improve our creative side! 

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I will speak at Axe-con 2024 (yay) in February. You can find more information about the event by checking the conference schedule. Talks at axe-con will include case studies from enterprise companies leading in large-scale accessibility efforts, best practices, and updates from technology leaders worldwide. I invite you to attend the event. I've been attending it for years, and it inspires me to do better in my work! 

I will speak at Axe-con 2024 (yay) in February. You can find more information about the event by checking the conference schedule. Talks at axe-con will include case studies from enterprise companies leading in large-scale accessibility efforts, best practices, and updates from technology leaders worldwide. I invite you to attend the event. I've been attending it for years, and it inspires me to do better in my work! 

Cintia Romero

Cintia Romero

Cintia Romero

© 2022 - 2024 The Design System Guide by Romina Kavcic

© 2022 - 2024 The Design System Guide by Romina Kavcic

© 2022 - 2024 The Design System Guide by Romina Kavcic