How design systems manage contributions: panel at Design System Day 2023

Design System Day 2023 logoAfter enjoying the virtual-only Design Systems Day organised by the GOV.UK Design systems team in 2022, I was thrilled when they announced that the 2023 version would be two days: one in-person in Edinburgh, and one virtual. I was even more excited when they asked me to join a panel at the in-person day, where we chatted about managing contributions.

Thanks to Deborah Dada who was our panel chair, and my fellow panellists Vicky Teinaki, Frankie Roberto, and Ellis Capon.

I mostly talked about how lucky we all were to be able to make it in person to an event in Edinburgh. I mentioned something that Amy Hupe had posted not long before, about people being allowed to work on design systems “as a treat” alongside their “normal job”.

Design systems are fun because in no other context would a designer go to their company’s leaders and say “we need to take this very well-trodden approach to improve our efficiency” and be told “OK as a TREAT you can have a go, but keep doing your normal job as well”
Amy Hupe posts about design system contributions

Yet these design systems are the building blocks of what we do and if we’re relying on people to make the time and space to contribute then we are not valuing them as part of the corporate ecosystem.

We need to be careful that this contribution model doesn’t exclude people. I would prefer to turn it on its head  and start by focusing on making contributions a legitimate part of people’s roles – not just leaving it to those who care and have the opportunities.

View the recording of our panel discussion: How design systems manage contributions

Read Amy Hupe’s blogpost: Your design system contribution practice is doomed to fail