Modern Web Podcast S11E3- Design System Engineering at Scale with Kathleen McMahon
In this podcast episode, Rob Ocel chats with Kathleen McMahon, a senior design systems engineer at Northwestern Mutual and a key contributor to the W3C Design Tokens Community Group.
Kathleen McMahon kicks off the conversation by defining design systems as versatile collections of patterns and efficiencies that streamline workflows in design and engineering. She emphasizes that design systems can encompass diverse elements, such as design patterns, component libraries, CSS frameworks, and more, tailored to the unique needs of a company or product. The focus isn't on rigidity but rather on promoting consistency and efficiency while allowing flexibility for innovation.
The dialogue then shifts to Kathleen's role as a design systems engineer and the dynamic nature of her work, influenced by factors like team size and company maturity. Kathleen shares her experiences in both small, multifaceted teams and larger, specialized teams at Northwestern Mutual. She provides insights into the varied responsibilities, from creating design tokens and components to ensuring accessibility and collaborating with diverse stakeholders.
Rob and Kathleen delve into the invaluable role of design systems in simplifying workflows for designers and developers. Kathleen highlights how design systems liberate creative energy by offering reusable patterns, enabling teams to focus on solving more complex problems. They also explore the strategic decision of whether to build a design system within a specific framework or keep it framework-agnostic, shedding light on the considerations and potential challenges associated with third-party component libraries.
The episode culminates with a discussion of ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) and its pivotal role in enhancing accessibility within design systems. Kathleen discusses the opportunities and challenges of leveraging libraries like Adobe's React ARIA hooks for accessibility.
This episode is sponsored by This Dot Labs.
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