Core Values

Make your design system a reflection of the people cultivating it.

Lean Design System builds on many years of experience in the the development of digital products and design systems at companies of all sizes—ranging from small startups to Fortune 100 enterprises. More importantly though, it incorporates ideas from outside domains such as Lean Thinking and modern software development to address resource-constraints in innovative ways. Specifically, the methodology draws a lot of inspiration from Lean Startup, Extreme Programming, and DevOps. Ideas such as Minimum Viability, Cross-functionality, Collective Ownership, and Infrastructure-as-Code all had a substantial influence on the design of the individual tactics, as well as on the larger framework.

The 4 core values of Lean Design System

Lean Design System promotes a more flexible and incremental approach to the development of design systems. Instead of understanding its formation process as a monolithic effort, each of the modular tactics aims to break down the daunting task into many smaller chunks. It outlines the idea of an adaptive, living system that learns and grows with an organization's challenges and projects.

Lean Design System is technology- and tool-agnostic. Whenever specific tools or technologies are mentioned, they are to be considered examples and proposals. Similarly, none of the tactics impose strict design or development approaches—instead, they delve into all the in-betweens: the interfaces between individual building blocks, the interactions between design and engineering, and the workflows between the different types of libraries that make a design system. Their goal is to improve collaboration, remove bottlenecks, and to develop a shared responsibility throughout teams and organizations. They aim to make the design system a direct reflection of the people cultivating it and the problems its addressing. In this spirit, Lean Design System values:

  • Exploration over planning.

  • Collective ownership over strict governance.

  • Workflows over tools.

The 4 core values underpinning the methodology as a whole all tackle the specific challenges resource-constrained organizations are facing when considering to establish their own design system, namely high upfront costs, lengthy planning stages, and uncertain outcomes. They are:

  1. Focus: We identify the most pressing issues and clearly articulate our goals, so that we can prioritize accordingly and make the best use of our time and resources.

  2. Agility: When establishing new structures, we do our best to avoid sacrificing maneuverability and flexibility.

  3. Validation: We strive to validate all results of our design system work (such as new guidelines and UI components) in ongoing projects and UX prototypes as quickly as possible to ensure we're on the right track with all our efforts.

  4. Optimization: We want to enable each other to collaborate more and more seamlessly every day. We want to foster a culture of cross-pollination where everyone is invited to share their ideas and struggles freely.

How to read this manual

Feel free to start anywhere and explore at your own pace. After you picked a tactic that caught your attention, you may, for example, continue with one of the supporting tactics listed at the bottom of each page. However, if you prefer to read the whole library cover to cover, it is suggested that you follow the predefined order, starting with the guiding principles and then moving on to the subsequent sections. This should give you the best understanding of how the individual layers support one another.

Authors and contributors

D. Kurfess

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