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Nick Alico
Nick Alico

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Passion Project

Often as developers, we get asked what we do, how we contribute to a project, etc. etc. We don't usually get asked about what we would do if we had infinite time, unlimited resources, none of life's nuanced responsibilities; What project would we work on if there were truly no limitations stopping us?

For me, the answer to that question would undoubtedly be related to design systems. Specifically, I want to make an open source web platform that brings the ability and interests to students, hobbyists, and professional designers and developers alike in an effort to show the importance and purpose of creating accessible design systems for any use case or project. I spend a good portion of my internship this past summer working on using an internal design system to build an updated design for the application I was working on that followed these updated design standards. I've grown very passionate about design systems, and think they really are the future of bridging the gap between design and development consistency. The issue is that design systems are almost solely developed and used by larger companies and created/maintained by hyper-specialize teams.

My vision is to create a design system platform, where individual users and small teams coming from no experience to expert status related to design systems can come to one place to find details and content to help in their design system's development. Just starting a design system at your start-up? My platform will support a comprehensive documentation and resources component that will be community-driven to help users discover a learn about how to get started or expand upon a design system. The platform will include references to other design systems to allow users to research and reference established systems to gather their own ideas. The site will also support a snippets section, where categorized component types will be grouped together and filterable to allow anyone to easily include components into their own project. The platform would additionally support a chatroom/blog-based feature that allows people to share their development progress as they design and create their own design systems. Here users could chat, ask questions, or gain community advice and guidance regarding their own design platforms. The point is that design systems should be encouraged and supported to be built and used by everyone, not just the team of 20 principal designers and developers at a FAANG company.

I would use this platform as simply a maintainer and co-manager of the open source platform. I would also help to advocate for education in design systems for students, junior developers, and for companies of all sizes looking to create their own systems or component libraries.

Accessibility is another huge piece of the puzzle that is missing from like 80% of design systems. Development teams continually refuse to prioritize making accessible elements and/or supporting accessible components in design systems. According to Useablenet and Monsido, there were 3500 digital accessibility lawsuits amassed in 2020 alone! I want to help change that. This design system "information database" would dedicate an entire portion of the platform to explaining, justifying, and displaying examples of components and design systems that were designed with accessibility in mind. I'm a believer that the future of web design MUST take accessibility standards more seriously. There is no reason we should be excluding upwards of 1 billion people (by 2010 world estimates) with a disability from accessing what should be a universal public utility: high-speed internet (WHO, 2011).

I want to get started on this project, to help bring the word that people who are interested should just start a design system. It does not need to be a perfect system from day one. The point is that they are always iterative and adapting to meet the needs of the company. I think there would be great promise once more of the public was able to see actual examples of the systems being implemented that result in improved efficiency in design and development teams at all levels. The future is design systems, and I want to help pioneer that message.


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