Design System Safari at Amsterdam UMC
Robert started his career as a graphic designer/artist. 8 years ago he joined the Amsterdam UMC as a webdesigner. He is part of the department of internal and external communication, located right in the middle of the hospital. In the last 8 years developed a lot more skills than just graphic design. Robert does some visual design, UX design and little bit of front-end every now and then.
When you’re part of a small in-house team, you have to be able to do a bit of everything.Robert
We talked with Robert about starting his Design System, the challenges he faces in setting it up and being the only designer in an organisation of 22.000 people.
Even though Robert is the only designer in his team he felt the need for a more structured workflow. Especially considering developer hand-off, since he’s working a lot with external developers. By adopting Atomic Design and making agreements about how they work together, collaboration would be a lot easier and faster.
The collaboration Robert pointed out here is exactly what Design Systems are about. Design Systems aren’t only about components, but is for 80% about governance. Our Design System Proces Puzzle could help you define your process together with your team.
Sketch + Abstract + Frontify
As a designer, Robert mainly works in Sketch. We were really impressed by the amount of work he already put in his Sketch library. Practically all elements you can think of using for the Amsterdam UMC are part of the library as smart components. This helps Robert a lot in speeding up the design. With all elements being in place it might just take one day to redesign a full Amsterdam UMC app.
With this Sketch Library I can easily redesign one of the AMC apps in just one dayRobert
Amsterdam UMC is mostly a Windows-oriented environment. To make the Design System accessible by his colleagues, he chose to use Frontify for Design System 1.0. For developer hand off, Robert uses Abstract. Abstract helps external developers implementing elements in a consistent way.
The Frontify environment is set up in two main categories: ‘base elements’ and ‘guidelines’. Base elements consists all basic elements, sorted in an Atomic Design way (atoms and molecules). Robert chose to start with the most visible parts like colors, fonts, buttons, shapes and icons. Guidelines focus more on how to use these elements. For example how and when to use certain colors or avatars.
Adding the external front-end developers to Abstract was a huge success. Robert: “the designer and front-end developer I’m working with are so happy!”. There is a lot less confusion in collaboration.
One of the challenges Robert is facing is that design/digital isn’t core-business at the hospital. That’s why development of a Design System is not a top priority. His advice? Try to find some allies and partners in the organization. He explains: “this Design System would really help with branding, so I’m now partnering with someone who’s involved in the overall branding of the hospital, he/she can help me spread the word through other parts of the organization.”
Expanding the Design System
When we spoke with Robert about his plans for the upcoming months, his approach is all about making impact. Starting with parts of our online presence which are very visible to stakeholders and visitors. In this case it will be the corporate website.
Another wish is to also include his content colleagues. He explained his colleagues have a lot of freedom within the CMS (GX). According to Robert, a great addition would be if they had agreements on how to set up articles on the website. Things like: structure of the pages, what are we communicating, tone-of-voice etc.
The possibilities we offer are maybe a bit too much, people get very creative 🙂Robert
3 tips from Amsterdam UMC
We asked Robert what his 3 tips would be for other designers in the same situation. What would you advise them when they want to start with their own Design System?
- Use your freedom and create your own role. Being alone can be an impediment, but if you turn it around, you have a lot of opportunities to shape things the way you like it.
- Just do it! It’s that easy, just start somewhere. Even though you have just a small part of your Design System, you can start looking for allies within your organization.
- Don’t be overwhelmed by all the big companies like Airbnb. You are not like them. Choose the things which have the most impact in your organization. “Others will probably move faster than you, but so be it!”