The word “evolution” was first found to be used around 1647 which was more popularised by the Naturalists towards the end of 18th century who upheld the age old pre-socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander’s view that humans must have evolved from an animal and this evolution must have sprung from sea. From Darwin’s theory of evolution, we see two important characteristics :
- In the eco-system the individuals of the same species are likely to differ in their measurable characteristics
- Such kind of variations are inherited (heredity).
For any complex and growing (evolving ) echo-system when we try to find the model to explain the behaviour of evolution, these two characteristics helps build a model that can provide meaningful reasoning behind the complex variations that exist.
Darwin’s The Desent of Man was more focused on hypothesis that variations are transmitted from parent to the off-spring, though it was a few years after established.
During mid 19th century, Gregor Mendel’s extensive pea-plant breeding explained and came up with a meaningful model.
This model was able to interpret and explain Darwin’s hypothesis around heredity, where it toys around the questions such as —
“is it possible that an animal having, for instance, the structure and habits of a bat, could have been formed by the modification of some animal with wholly different habits? Can we believe that natural selection could produce, on the one hand, organs of trifling importance, such as the tail of a giraffe, which serves as a fly-flapper, and, on the other hand, organs of such wonderful structure, as the eye, of which we hardly as yet fully understand the inimitable perfection?”
The natural life-forms and their associated complexity of variations, basically, was well explained by the model of heredity. The moment we envision a design-system that can explain the variations in life-forms, it would be no surprise to be in similar lines of what Darwin had deduced. In the similar lens, when we take the case of any design-system, we see similar attributes. The variations of any entity can be explained with inheritance of attributes from parents.
Irrespective of the typical design system maturity level, in order to make a design system scalable, it should have this very characteristic of having the model to define variations and inheritance.
In typical sense of “design system”, as we refer in our day jobs in techno-design industry revolving around software application and related eco-systems, we face the use-cases that are the tip of the iceberg of the operational problems we face in a design process. The activities like, the categorization of UI patterns and mapping them to the user interface needs, manual export of the semantics while different teams work on different tool-chains especially in open and collaborative design scenarios along with long hours of religious debates” of the utilitarian values of widgets proposed to be used against the variants that are in the implementations, are some of such examples, which has become the part of the job, where unaccountable time, effort and of course organization money become under-utilised.
Design System help generalize the the diversified aspect of patterns we use in design. But, the offshoots of the design systems across the industry, to cater to the need of the individual organisation, who are developing them, are not solving the issue of bringing a normalization, rather they are making it more distributed. There are no two design systems that are equal in structure or in the approach they follow to define the patterns in them.
So the “design system”s which are supposed to be a “common-language” for their respective design process that every team member can adhere to in order to produce a consistent design, do not have a “common language” among themselves.
Along with that, none of the design systems, as of today has a model that can help explain any other design system. Even, the basic smallest pattern or the building button, they define, does not explain the variations we see across cross domain, organization and technological context.
A simple case of a “button” pattern, does not seem anymore simple, where we try to connect the dots between the variation we see regarding that.
For example how is a button different from that of a toggle button, or a text-link or a simple radio-button? Even a simple hyperlink with some background color and cursor properties can cloak itself as a mental model of the user defining the concept of a ‘button’. Also the technological dimensions to variation can span beyond the technology used, platform it is rendering and the framework or language in play.
This is a perfect example even in such a narrow definition of a design system (i.e. a pattern library for UI or a basic brand-system or style guide), how it is fit case for the need for a model to define these variations and inherent relationships among the entities to explain in a logical way how these variations are linked to each other.
When I think about the Design System, it’s not limited to the UI or brand library typically that we refer and try to define, rather, being a part of DesOps mindset, where every organization is a Design Organization (as every organization is in employing creativity in solving the problems for its customers through its products, services etc. ), it spans across and touches different and diversified domains, technological dimensions and information spaces.
For example, a design system can be a knowledge system for system design meant for developers, technical architects, data scientists. Similarly, a design system can define the elementary components and practices for process design – e.g. the elementary blocks of a Design Thinking framework like that of IBM Design Thinking framework can be explained and built using such approach. Or the design system can also cater to the need of the intersection of specific industry need and technological domain at the micro level — e.g. a design system that can define the model for a color system needed for specific type LED monitor manufacturing industry. In all these scenarios, the task becomes critical to define a model that can stand for this “universe” what we refer as a “design system”, where we can branch out or fork and build the shared meaning that can span across all diverse disciplines, domains, technologies and methodologies.
(To be Continued to the next post)
(c) Samir Dash, 2018. All rights reserved. This content including the images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
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You can also explore the following links:
‘Semantic Design System : Redefining Design Systems for DesOps’ https://www.slideshare.net/MobileWish/semantic-design-system-redefining-design-systems-for-desops-v10-1sep-2018
Open Design System Ontology: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/photo-essay-semantic-design-system-part-3-open-ontology-samir-dash/?