ArticleSeptember 2, 2019 · 6 min read time
The craft of (product) design has never been as complex as in 2019. Staying ahead of the curve has never been more vital, and the industry seems to be just as excited as I am for what will unfold at Joint Futures.
A 2-day conference dedicated to Design, organized by Elisa and supported by InVision and Rosenfeld, will take place on the 3rd of September 2019 in Helsinki, Finland. Joint Futures is the de facto event for industry news, trends, intelligence and buzzwords related to Design, Design Systems, Pattern Libraries and Style Guides. Previously named DS Conf, the primary aim of the conference was to promote how Design Systems (a.k .a. DS) can help build better products more efficiently.
Recently, their focus has shifted slightly away from Design Systems towards a more holistic design conference. “Holistic design is understanding and solving problems in all those levels that design operates”, as Angelos Arnis, the head honcho behind the conference states in his recent Medium article. It is healthy that we keep the conversation going on topics such as establishing the value of Design. But for me there is an even better reason I enjoy attending conferences.
I’ve prepared a short list of 5 reasons I’m going and what I’m looking forward to at this year's conference:
Professional Growth and Networking
Understanding both the local and overseas designer landscape is one of the most efficient ways to propel one’s design career forward. I’ve attended many tech and design conferences over the years, and my design career has benefited from each one through all the valuable feedback and insights gained.
Me IRL talking about Strategerier Design
So, essentially I use conferences to more or less strategically figure out which direction I want to take in my career. For that, I first need to know where I stand. Putting myself through similar objective analysis I apply to my client’s design problems helps me focus my efforts where they are needed. It also gives me a clue on how to position myself as a designer or how to evolve the brand for Nitor or one of my side projects.
My journey to Design Systems
For the past 15 years, I’ve focussed on what I believe to be my core skills, from digital branding to user experience and interfaces. Like many other designers, I started by designing logos, letterheads and prepared corporate guidelines for print. The next logical step was style guides and component (or pattern) libraries for digital solutions.
For the past 5 years in particular, I have focused my efforts on Design Systems. They are the best thing since sliced bread, but as an idea they are not especially new inventions. Designing using a modular workflow and documenting design has allowed the designer to make their work more visible, manageable and repeatable since the dawn of the craft itself. Design Systems owe a lot to their printed predecessors, the Corporate Guideline and the Brand Book.
What is new about Design Systems is not only the dramatic increase of efficiency in product design and designer-developer handoffs, but how the system can be designed to be highly scalable, spread among (and even inspire) an entire organization to do things better. Being the talk of the industry, there are already many events and conferences aimed at designers and developers that are solely dedicated to Design Systems. For example Clarity, Design Matters, Design Systems London, Joint Futures(previously DSConf), Patterns Day, Rethink!, SmashingConf, The Lean Design System and many more with at least partly DS related keynotes or workshops.
So, the next conference on my list to attend is this years Joint Futures 2019. They feature an amazing 28 speakers, 2 tracks, 3 themes and 4 keynotes and have partnered up with Rosenfeld Media to bring 4 optional workshops. Ultra-high expectations are justified with hosts like Jina Anneand Dave Malouf, speakers like Kim Goodwin, Tatiana Mac and Janice M. Cho.
Product (and industry) maturity check
I’m excited to hear how others have solved team related, cultural or organizational challenges in their projects. How they make the client fall in love with the workflows and tools proposed? What are the business and development practicalities with getting a DS up and running? What are the pros and cons of different Design System strategies?
It's not that difficult to make a Design System look fantastic, but to make it work for everyone is hard work. Are all the big companies lying about the readiness of their systems like Inayaili suggested in her keynote at Patterns Day?
I’d like to point out that it is very important to keep in mind that Design Systems, much like design itself, should evolve with the product and it is a long-term commitment and I strongly believe that while DS’s are not for everyone, they can be very useful in complex omnichannel solutions.
Alla Kholmatova’s (and Inayaili de León Persson’s) keynotes at Patterns Day 2017 were very enlightening and I hope to hear more on this topic from Alla next week.
A Finnish take on Design Systems
There are many successful Design Systems abroad, but how about the ones here in Finland? Some companies are rather spooked and will not invest in a system that might or might not be adopted into wider use. However, I know there’s a few DS’s in the works as I’ve taken part in making a few myself. However, I know there’s a few DS’s in the works as I’ve taken part in making a few myself. Surely there’s many I didn’t even know existed? Next week I’ll find out exactly how my fellow Finns do IT.
Mastering the craft
Conferences are also good for picking up useful tips and best practices for (product) design at scale. It is as easy as listening to speakers talking about their own experiences and you get expert recommendations for improving speed, quality, and consistency with everything design related. Many events, organizers and keynote speakers also allow you to download or stream the talk and download related materials afterwards.
As I am planning a medium-sized brand renewal, I will also attend Kristin Skinner’s workshop “Design your own Design Organization”.
I always keep my eyes peeled for new tools that can evolve or even revolutionize how we collaborate within a team and enable us to deliver engaging, habit forming products more efficiently. I most likely spend too much of my non-billable hours scouring the internet and reading up on blogs for any notion of new tools that might increase productivity. Whether desktop or web-based, they encourage consistency and help me be more creative. At conferences I don’t have to scour for hours on end.
Being the total design tool nerd I am, I hope to find shiny new toys to add to my workflow. A while ago, Figma was one of these finds. I love Sketch, but when I switched to Figma, I found their approach more suitable for me. With the new plugin support, I have great expectations for what they have lined up for the future.
The third tool I couldn’t live without would be Zeroheight. It has proven to be the best platform to showcase, store and collaborate on design systems.
(Others on the list of tools I couldn’t live without are probably Procreate Painter and RoughAnimator for iPad.)
In conclusion, I think the 2019 Joint Futures event will surely allow me to meet a lot of talented people and I’m adamant that my expectations will be met and even exceeded.
We have prepared a little booth with some fellow Nitoreans hanging around so do pop by to say hi. If by any chance you are shopping around for someone to take on the design and implementation of your organization’s Design System or you are looking for work in designing them, look no further than Nitor.