Nathan Curtis on “Scalable Design Systems” (September 14th, 2016, Freiburg)

Nathan Curtis on “Scalable Design Systems” (September 14th, 2016, Freiburg)

The role of design with large organizations is expanding, spreading across product teams and influencing decision-making at higher and higher levels. This scale makes it increasingly challenging to align designers and product teams to deliver cohesive, consistent experiences across a customer journey.


A design system is a framework of practices that bring designers and products together. It is a platform to identify, decide on, and document what to share, whether a visual style, design patterns, front-end UI components, and practices like accessibility, research, content strategy.

This workshop exposes you to the broad range of those considerations – the kinds of parts, products, people and practices involved—and equips you with tools and activities to start, spread, and sustain a system yourself.

Over the course of a day, we’ll introduce design systems, practice how to get started, discuss how style guides help us spread it to our organization, and plan for how to sustain a system over time.


  • Identify your system’s parts, people who contribute, and products to which it applies,
  • Deconstruct system into its parts like a visual language, UI components, and layouts,
  • Organize a library that articulate standards across diverse topics and disciplines,
  • Project your system’s purpose and value to your organization through your artifacts, particularly your living style guide,
  • Conduct design clinics and audits to maintain standards and product cohesiveness,
  • Run design shares to identify product inconsistencies, and
  • Align your development, product, and marketing teams work with your system’s roadmap.


All too often, organizations have multiple products that are disjointed and inconsistent. With a design system, your teams will have a framework to align on standards and processes.

Multiple design teams and development teams suffer from doing duplicative work, resulting in a customer journey that’s meant to be cohesive but ends up expensive or impossible to align and evolve together. Design systems save organization time and money, and foster positive energy among those who value efficiency and reuse.

With the system as a backdrop, you will see designers, developers, and product managers aligning and motivated to bridge the gap between products. All of that leads to the ultimate goal: creating a cohesive experience for your customers.


Designers, front end developers, product managers, content strategists, their leadership, and anyone interested in learning how to inject design systems into their broader organization

Workshop Schedule

  • 8:30 Doors open, Registration
  • 9:00 Introduction & Kick-off
  • 11:00 Coffee Break
  • 12:30 Lunch
  • 13:30 Afternoon Session
  • 15:00 Coffee Break
  • 17:00 The End, Networking

Workshop Includes

  • Snacks and drinks during the whole day
  • Tea and coffee
  • Lunch
  • Paper and pen/pencil

What Hardware/Software Do You Need?

To get the most out of the workshop, you'll need to bring a laptop with your preferred text editor.


This full-day workshop will be hosted at the historic "Kaufhaus" and will take place after two days of SmashingConf. The workshop will be running from 9:00am-5:00pm on Wednesday, September 14th. You can register online and save $100 when you sign up for all three days.

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