Design System Communications

You’ll need to know where each audience is to get the messages that you’ll have for them. In communication, this is all about leveraging channels: any way, path, or place where a target audience can pickup a message. In design systems, there’s a wide variety to choose from.

Messaging Apps

A messaging app such as Slack or MS Teams is essential for any program.

Many system teams set up communications by target audience, such as:

  • #system-design
    Help, sharing ideas, cross-product visibility, naming things, meeting minutes of critique meetings
  • #system-development
    Help, calls for API/PR reviews, naming things, announcing/summarizing working sessions
  • #system-general
    Catch-all for other communications, major announcements, sprint reviews, calls for participation in planning

Teams may eventually expand to other channels for specific purposes, like :

  • #system-help (for focused, threaded conversations)
  • #system-[ambassadors] (for a semi-private group, such as key advocates)
  • #system-ux-patterns (for narrowing discussion to a special interest)

Notifications

Email, Twitter, text messaging, and even alerts embedded in system tools like a Sketch plugin or command line warning of a detected deprecated feature.

Published Content

More permanent content may be authored and published in a variety of channels, such as:

Recurring Face-to-Face Meetings

Routine meetings where system team members present or participate are opportunities to communicate. These can include sprint reviews, critiques, technical working groups, readouts to program sponsors, and special interest groups (like UX Patterns).

Milestone Demos & Events

In contrast to the ideal routine a system achieves, there’s also messages that require more deliberate preparation, authoring, review, and polish. These include demos of major releases, tech talks, brown bags, and training curriculum. Usually, slide presentations are the output, and teams are amazed at just how much time this soaks up across team members to do well.

Other Random, Innovative Locations

My favorite communication channel ever? Easy. Redgate software company in Cambridge, UK. At the time, their culture preferred communications as analog (Kanban walls of Post-Its, whiteboards, etc) over digital (Jira, emails, etc). Therefore, the system team borrowed a channel used by other groups: bathroom stall doors to post newsletters to captive audiences. That’s innovating. I love it! What fits your culture?

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Design System Communications