Design Systems Hot Takes

Big four oh

5 min read

It’s my birthday today, 40 times around the sun. I reflect back to the first time I started journaling; it was on my IBM computer in a text file I called “hyperjournal”. I really tried to be regular about it but just fell out of habit. Fast forward to now and it’s been 4 months since my last post but not for lack of effort.

Complementary Space

A topic that I’ve written about on my blog and spoke about at a conference earlier this year is a new way to think of spacing tokens called Complementary Space. It’s the follow-up to Gridless Design which got a great deal of interest last year. Complementary Space has gotten a bit less attention but I think that’s understandable because it is experimental and not strictly design token based. It needs a different kind of mindset to fully embrace. Releasing it so close to the holidays was also probably bad timing. However, I appreciate all of the feedback I’ve received on it.

Connecting with community

So. many. design systems events. In the past few months I attended Schema and Clarity along with a dozen video conference events. The latest was a fully stacked panel speaking about the future of design tokens yesterday, and there’s another event today (that I unfortunately must miss). I love how active this community is, where there is always a discussion to be had. I’m especially glad for the wrap up of yesterday’s panel where the leadership agreed that there’s a future where we aren’t pushing pixels or making buttons because it’s already done. This gives us time to focus on what really matters; the experience.

There is absolutely a world where design systems is not about the assets but about the infrastructure. I got an opportunity to catch up with Shaun Bent of Spotify who had a talk a few years ago describing their onion model where a core system supports outer systems. This is where the future of design systems is for me; people who focus on the infrastructure of how resources are delivered across teams. We spoke a bit about the TV team for Spotify since it is especially niche and how the fit into the support strucuture. A question I had was “would it be more beneficial to have a representative of the TV team on the design system team?” Both of us don’t know what the answer to that is. There are pros and cons either way. For right now as I understand it, the TV team there is specialized and meets regularly with the design system team for alignment. Though I think these are questions we should be asking, not what is another way of displaying a token library.

I absolutely love chatting with members of the design system community about these kinds of questions and topics.


When I first launched this blog I didn’t put a lot of effort into the design because I expected folks to subscribe to the RSS feed. However, every time I’d look at this blog, I’d be so bored with the design of it. It wasn’t reflecting my personality and I wasn’t sure what direction to go. After playing around a bit and speaking with Jen on this; she recommended that I lean harder into the hot takes and use Hot Ones as inspiration. I’m glad there’s another designer living with me to help get out of designers-block. 😅

So now I rate each post with a heat which will inform the accent color used on the post; from mild to volcanic. This isn’t visible at all in the feeds, but for those visiting the site it’ll be a nice bit of personality. Most of the colors being generated are accessible but I’m looking forward to the new color space functions in CSS to get further accessibility support. Jen also had the idea to have folks reading posts to influence the heat but I’m not about to hook this up to a custom database and authentication just for a single value.

I’ve also updated the OG image generation to use Satori by way of eleventy-plugin-og-image, making it much easier to create images for each post. I hope there’s better support for CSS in the future with this tool but it does a good enough job for easy integration.

I also want to put a bit of animation into the new neon synthwave effect for the titles but that’ll take a bit of time and exploration.

Plans for next year

I have another large project that I started last year based on a short conversation with Dan Mall. It’ll probably take a long time to officially announce since there’s a lot of work to be done for it. In the meantime I still expect to create posts here on a better cadence. I have over a dozen post ideas ready to be written.

Additionally, I’m planning to put more focus on Mastodon and less in other social media platforms. I’m still not comfortable with the new platform because at the moment the circles are small. I hope more folks join for more connections to be made and that finding like interests is easier. However, it’s better than having notifications of suggested posts that are completely irrelevant to my interests like most other social platforms. So if you’re following me at the birdsite, I recommend you consider coming over to Mastodon and following me there.

Looking forward to what the next 40 years may bring!

UX Engineer, a terminal career Choose wisely