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Designing Inspired Style Guides – Talk.CSS #24 max-content Edition

Okay, brilliant thanks for making me feel old. Come all of this way, and now I feel, like some kind of I don’t know, decrepid relic good afternoon good afternoon, thanks very much for coming. It’s absolutely fantastic to be here. Thanks to Chris and everybody for the invitation, I’ve been to Singapore dozens of times, but this is the only time I’ve ever left the airport.

It’s some Singapore’s a lot bigger than I’d experienced before so where last year I actually moved from the UK down to Sydney. I took over it as head of designer company called and Sarada and we’re actually making some really exciting designs that are a kind of combination of kind of editorial and product work, we’re actually building our design and development team. So if you are interested in Sydney then and send me an email or send me a tweet, and I also consulted my own company – do designs for clients, stuff nonsenses.

Our new design this week meet Errol. My new guerrilla and our goal for the past 20 years has always been to make distinctive creative work for the web work that kind of goes beyond just making a digital product or a website easy to use, because to me, design is much more than just problem-solving. You know it’s about communication, it’s about inspiring brand loyalty and encouraging affinity, and that’s why you’ll meet Errol on the website.

You don’t see pictures of me and a good deal of my work over the years has involved designing systems and pattern. Libraries and style guides worked for clients like Greenpeace and and WWF and style guides. These tools have become incredibly fashionable. You know: we’ve got articles talks, even entire conferences, like clarity in San Francisco that have been devoted to them and perhaps the most well-known design methodology today is Brad Frost’s atomic design.

I bet there’s very few people that have not heard of atomic web design. A Brad wrote a book about atomic web design. He was kind enough to mention me in the knowledge Minh said so Andy Clark, who’s been talking about design systems and atoms before it was the hip thing to do. Thank you for all your writing and thinking, but you still not getting my dog, which, which is a real shame. Actually, because my my Instagram feed is full of pictures of Brad’s, dog, Ziggy and other people’s babies.

I’m not sure that’s normal and that’s because in 2012. Oh, my god, that’s such a long time ago, before atomic design, I introduced this idea of designing atoms and elements, and it’s this process that separates what I call the atmosphere of a design from the layout and if you fast forward to today, we’ll find that style Guide has become this umbrella term for several different types of design, documentation.

They might be static, PDF style or visual identity guidelines. They illustrate how a brand should be presented and how those assets should get used across different media. This is a an example from Audi which includes how to use their fonts and colors and their logo come back to LD a little bit later. Cuz, I’m hoping that if I mention them twice, they’ll send me a free one. You just passed my water, please J’s.

So voice and tone guidelines they describe how a a brand’s personality should get conveyed through the way that it speaks to customers. A MailChimp’s voice and tone is a fabulous really well-known example of how to imbue a brand’s personality through the language that they use front. End code guidelines for developers, they stipulate coding standards to encourage better collaboration across teams.

Sure we’ve all seen examples like this. This is IBM’s carbon design system and then finally, component or patent libraries, which commonly contain examples of how to style the atoms and molecules and organisms and templates that Brad for us talked about in atomic web design. This is from the Guardians pasted up and it’s a typical example of a pattern: library, that’s been developed for developers by developers and in my work and I suspect in most of yours.

When we talk about a style guide, we mean a combination of visual identity guides. In a component or pattern library – and these all offer something slightly different, but more often than not, they all have something in common. Can you guess what that is? They all look ugly enough to have been designed by someone who really enjoys configuring, a Reuter or router, depending on which part of the world you’re in okay, that that was a bit mean because an unattractive style guide is not going to be a problem for everyone.

I mean people say as long as it contains the information that people need how it matters shouldn’t, look or should it. You know this means that is the thing right. Beauty complements functionality doesn’t detract from it. Creative design enhances someone’s engagement with the style guide and it should amplify the content, and that means to be effective. A style guide should present that content in appealing and engaging ways and recently interest in design systems has meant that we’ve had reproductions of corporate design manuals.

These are become really popular, this one’s from British Rail, I ordered mine online and it came late. The NASA graphic standards manual describes the design of everything from a business card to the branding on a booster rocket. You got the New York City, Transit Authority, graphic standards manual. It includes the most comprehensive guide to how to use Helvetica that I’ve ever seen not making this up.

Finally, this is a mouthful. The official symbol of the American Revolution – Bicentennial graphic standards manual, explains that only how this symbol should be used, but also how it was created. This is important. I’m going to come back to this later and now there are collections of design guidelines online, including this one, which includes work from Apple and IBM and Microsoft. The problem with uninspiring style guides is that not everyone needs to take the same information from them.

You know if you’re looking for markup and styles to code up some form of media at component, you’re – probably going to be a techie type. But if you need to understand the balance of type sizes across a typographic hierarchy, you’re more likely to be creative. So what you need from a style guide is different, and yet so many style guides follow the same patterns. The slides are broken by the way. That’s intentionally blank, it’s okay, intentionally blank because I like to with the AV guys so I’m actually going to start off by looking at color, which to me, is one of the most important ingredients in a design because it it communicates enough enough.

It communicates personality and creates mood, and it’s vital to an interactive, understandable vocabulary. Okay, so now it actually has stopped right. No, no! No! We working! So you think right. If we talk about color you’d think that style guides would present color in any number of really imaginative ways right, but you’d be really disappointed because, generally the most aspiring your fine looks like a collection of paint chips from a DIY paint shop.

This is Lonely Planet’s Rizzo. It does a great job of separating design elements from UI components, but you’re going to struggle to get a feeling for Lonely Planet’s design. Just by looking at those color chips. This is green pieces world wide star guide that uses the same approach as the sky’s old web toolkit and the times is functional palette. Goth, UK gothic a we heard of this website. It’s not well known for its creative flair.

It varies the approach by using circles, which I find really strange, because circles don’t feature anywhere else in the branding or the design. On the plus side, though, the designers have provided some context by categorizing colors, like links and text and backgrounds. That kind of thing Google’s material design, offers an embarrassment of colors most helpfully, though it does advise people how to combine these primary and accent colors to into usable palettes, but few style guides actually offer explanations and even less in the way of inspiring examples.

Most are extremely vague when describe color. I love this use color as a presentation element for either decorative purposes or to convey information. The government of Canada’s web experience toolkit states rather obviously, apparently I didn’t know this. We can say this inside Microsoft. I can’t say this inside Adobe, but adding more colors to their palette, as apparently made Adobe a rich, dynamic and multi-dimensional company who knew it.

Was that easy? I’m not sure at all. What makes the draft us web standards guideline colors a distinctly American palate, but it’s going to have to work bloody hard to achieve its goal of communicating warmth and trustworthiness. After a year of Donald Trump, we’re going to build a great style guide, people won’t believe it. It’s going to be so great Mexico is going to pay for it right, the University of Oxford’s, it much more helpful.

They explain how and why to use their colors. They say in a British accent. The dark oxford blue is used primarily in general page furniture such as the backgrounds on the header and footer beautiful. The designers are open table they’ve considered how to explain the hierarchy of the colors that they use by presenting them and their supporting colors in different size chips. So it’s really obvious which are the primary and supporting and accent or neutral colors.

They don’t have to say so Foursquare. They helpfully prescribe the percentages of colors that make up their marketing materials, but there are much more imaginative ways that we can describe color. I love this steel toolmakers brand book, which itself is a really good example of thoughtful graphic design. It could not be clearer when it says use this color with fantastic. You know it presents its information clearly and it’s in a way which is consistent with this no-nonsense.

Steel brand, the designers at Alberta’s corporate identity manual. They cleverly combine colors with imagery of the region that inspires them, and these larger blocks of color give people a stronger feeling for the design without making it difficult to find information about those colors. You know finally, a style guide should demonstrate the interplay of color and typography just to make sure that people understand what’s acceptable in terms of color contrast and accessibility.

So for some companies organizations brand books have developed into a bit of an art form. If you find these things as inspiring as I do, that’s important to remember that we shouldn’t just simply copy the appearance, what we should do is to turn this inspiration into designs that work for the web. You know, for example, this page from the GARP from the Barbican brand book to me suggests things like SVG shapes and CSS blend modes, all that cool stuff.

This is the distinctive McMiller cancer support, visual identity and they’ve brought the design to every page of their brand guidelines. You know the color chips match the style and we get much better understanding of their visual identity when those same colors are used in other kind of imaginative imaginative ways. You know, of course, living style guides and pattern. Libraries. They need to present information about color values, but this is such a fabulous opportunity to be creative.

You know, perhaps we could design some kind of interactive UI that helps people in different audiences get the information they need. This is the Royal Mail, which is one of Britain’s most recognizable brands. I managed to leave brexit island just after Christmas, she’s glad to put on a French accent to get across the border. In fact, when I put on a French accent, they basically asked me to leave, which was fine.

He didn’t mention brexit in the introduction. This was yeah honestly, don’t get me started. I think I got myself started. This is a page from the Royal mallows Brown book. It’s really effective because it brings colour and iconography and typography together into this single page. That gives us an immediate, immediate impression of the brand. You know. What’s more iconic than a van color chips can be used in other kind of imaginative ways to present colour information.

You know they don’t have to be rectangular. If you feel playful shapes with colours, you can better connect them with a brand. This is the designer designers of the the frozen-yogurt. You say, yogurt or yogurt. Here, you’re good yogurt. It is yogurt yogurt, Jurgen fruisé. They did exactly that. What they did was that they don’t just explain their colors. They tastefully display them inside these silhouetted tubs of rose and yogurt, and this conveys personality as well as color information.

You know, style guides can make a bigger impression when they have personality. This is a page from from bings design guidelines and again it brings color and typography graphic styles and their logo together to describe how bings visual identity system is constructed. So I think that style guide should inspire people as well as to inform those who use them, and I was keeping that in mind when I did designed a series of what I call inspired guide.

Design templates – and these are style guide templates that I hope are as beautiful as they are functional, and I made six sets of these things and they all contain pages of design, principles and colors and logos and typography and form elements and buttons all of the stuff That you would normally put into a pattern library or a style, guide and CSS custom properties. I was going to drop some CSS in here at some point.

These now have really really excellent browser support and they’re fabulous for using inside star guides, because they make it so quick to make color changes across different pages that make it so quick and simple. And if you don’t want to use nodejs or npm or any other complicated solutions to get in the way of a of making a style guide, you can just make these things with a good dose of semantic HTML and some plain old CSS SVG, possibly a little Bit of native JavaScript, whatever that is, you know, you should not need a framework, people always say well, you know, can I use this thing with bootstrap? You shouldn’t need a framework or any particular software or toolset to make a living style guide.

You know what we should be doing is removing as many dependencies as we can and if we want to improve the way than which we present Carlow inside style guides. There’s plenty that we can do you know. For a start, we needn’t confine color information just to the color palette, page in the style guide. You know finding imaginative ways to display color across different pages and then show it in context with all the other parts of the design that could be really effective.

This is a six different cover pages that I packed with color. You know they make a really bold statement. You know a visual hierarchy can be easier to understand than just labeling colors as primary or supporting. So we should find creative ways to display that hierarchy. You know you might use pallet panels of different sizes or you might arrange boxes on a modular grid and then fill that whole page with color.

You know don’t limit yourself to rectangular shapes, we can use circles or we can use other shapes that just made with CSS and if irregular shapes are part of our brand, then we can fill SVG silhouettes with CSS and then we can wrap text around them using Css shapes all really fun stuff. You know, for the style guides that I’ve designed I try to go beyond just documenting color and type styles, and I’ve want to describe what they mean visually for the brand.

This was a project that I did last year for Sun Life Insurance in the UK and I described their colors and how to use them across a series of art-directed pages which reflect the kind of lively personality of the Sun Life brand and there’s information about hex And RGB values and SAS variables and when to use these colors for branding or interaction or messaging, you know it’s all there, but it’s in a format that I hope will appeal as much to creative as well as technical people.

You know, and I included information about color contrast, accessibility, because you know understanding why certain combinations of color are inaccessible that can really reduce testing times. You know it can avoid a lot of arguments about color choices, and then I try to find distinctive ways to present color that better reflects the brand. So for sonlife I made these header graphics that really show that their brand personality has a fun side to it.

You know I experimented with ways to communicate color hierarchy through different sizes and quantities of their circle device, so alongside color typography is probably going to be the most defining aspect of any design. So we’re really fortunate now to be able to use any number of different fonts on the web, we’re not limited to using fonts that are just installed on a person’s device. So you might imagine that with so many beautiful typefaces available style guide, designers would constantly be creating inspiring ways to present these types of typefaces.

You know you’d be disappointed. This is Adobe again even Adobe. They own Typekit numerous typefaces, but they fail to make the most from the fabulous fonts in their own star guide. You know most pattern. Libraries offer documentation, but they don’t offer inspiration. You know, while information about type sizes is important, so is the context in which that type is used. The treatment of type different screen widths and the way that type elements interact with each other is vital, so communicating a design.

You know many style guides fail in demonstrating this even the best examples, including this gel from Westpac. It only shows a typefaces basic set of characters. It doesn’t show the context, doesn’t show any other elements. It doesn’t show whitespace. You know as it’s a publication which is written with mostly written content. I think it’d be more inspiring and informative to see examples of actual headings.

This is from this is from The Times of London. Instead of this kind of greeting text, you know people use this quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog because it contains every letter in the English alphabet, but we can use our imaginations to better demonstrate the characteristics of a typeface. You know over the past few years I’ve been rediscovering the work of accomplished art directors and graphic designers.

You know I, I studied fine art, I didn’t study graphic design, so you know 30, 40 years on this stuff’s all still new. To me. You know learning about this. Work has convinced me that there’s so much more that we can do to communicate our use of type within a style guide. You know looking at inspiration from other medium, including print. We can learn ways to combine color and typography together to better communicate the spirit of a brand and then how to use those assets.

So we’ll go back to the the New York City, Transit Authority, graphic standards manual. You know it immerses the reader in the details of Helvetica more than any publication that I’ve ever seen and it’s showcasing not just the letters but those all-important, often fascinating numerals, and these so often get forgotten when we’re making a star guide. You know when we view characters up close. We can get a much better feel for what gives them their personality in when we illustrate type.

We should also explain how those characteristics of size and thickness and weight should then inform the design of other elements. On a page, including things like symbols, or icons, and understanding how to design typography so that it’s legible and readable, when we present it light on dark, this is something that’s often missing from most of the style guides that I’ve read, as is how typefaces working combination With other icons and their symbols, so this is a page from the New York City, graphic standards, Authority, graphic standards manual, and it just does this fabulous job of demonstrating how helvetica’s, numerals and letters combine to create this design that just feels at home on the new York, metro and style guide should inspire designers by demonstrating other potential applications for typography.

This is the nasa graphic standard manual. It does just that. You know it starts with their iconic logo and I really really enjoy how the designers have explained the background to the typefaces they’ve chosen. You know, I know from experience that including explanations like this can really help people to realize the importance of good type. You know these things are not just commodities that come installed with Windows.

Nasa demonstrates how to use typography on signage vehicle livery. You know, and it’s important to demonstrate how typography can affect even these most kind of mundane items. These are paper forms from NASA, but they could just easily be a an email newsletter or a web form. You know these all benefit from better typographic design and in a style guide. Typography pages can include the examples of the cases and the weights primary and supporting typefaces information about white space.

It should demonstrate how different type treatments should vary. When they’re presented light on dark and as a design often includes supporting and primary typefaces, we should devise ways to show the relationships between typefaces. You know many contain really distinctive character for letters or numerals or symbols. So we ought to make space in the star guide to showcase them. You know, rather than overlook those numbers we should design pages to show when and how and why someone should choose to use numerals for maybe a supporting typeface rather than the primary one.

You know there can be fun. You know we should find ways to display them as that are as attractive as they are useful and to give people a better understanding of how to use them as well as breaking typed down into component parts. You know it’s really important to show the combinations of different type elements, for example in our large images with captions, and we should provide this extra context by demonstrating a type element alongside, let’s say, a typographic scale and then provide information about using color.

At the same time, you know we can use this process of designing a style guide to kind of expand. Our repertoire of designs for little elements that often get forgotten like block, quotes and pull quotes, and we can take the opportunity to bring designers and developers together around a style guide, to talk about the creative possibilities without sacrificing, let’s say, performance or responsiveness.

So when I was designing for WWF, I had to think very very carefully about how to use the typefaces that they’d already chosen. So I started off by making some simple kind of HTML type sheets, and then I tested them across different devices so that I could understand what the minimum and the maximum sizes should be, and then the style guide that I designed for WWF. It includes these organisms. It even includes full page templates so that it gives the fullest kind of impression of my typographic design, and I took a similar approach when I was designing for some life.

This is demonstrating how their bag rounded typeface, how that sort of personality gets conveyed through interactive. You eyes who have included the modular scale, included information about color, and this son lifestyle guide even includes the big larger organisms in a banners and common navigation elements just to ensure that everything is presented as part of a consistent whole. You know to be effective, a style guides, typography shouldn’t just be reduced to its component parts.

We should see typography as an ensemble of type elements that all play their part in a typographic design. Finally, I want to talk about imagery, because graphic icons and graphic images are another important element in the design of a lot of digital products and websites. So let’s have a look at how many style guides routinely display this iconography the Code for America style guide. It presents these icons at different sizes, but the designers at clear left, who we saw earlier they haven’t, explained how the design of these icons should adapt when a get reproduced at different sizes.

You know they’ve also really missed a trick. I think an opportunity to demonstrate adaptability and responsiveness. They could have. You know, built this style guide, for example using picture elements so that we could see what those icons would look like on different device widths. I just I really wish the designers of the map box style guide, had thought just a little bit harder about designing some kind of imaginative interface to make the most of these icons.

I don’t know: where do you have your binoculars, beautiful icons, reproduced, tiny, tiny size and, sadly Atlassian star guide, says absolutely nothing about how to create new icons that match their existing set. This is an important omission. You know. Meanwhile, over at Gavi UK I’ve actually found those circles which we were missing earlier. You know it’s really easy to poke fun. I know that it’s really easy to poke fun, especially at golf dot UK, but it’s really hard to get the design of a star guide right, because designers and developers need something different from them.

You know, developers might need file names and CSS class attribute values. Designers might need to learn how to create new icons with the same visual style as the existing ones. You know, satisfying both needs can be really tricky, but the challenge isn’t any more difficult than the work that we all do every day. You know, I’m convinced that we can do a lot better. You know you might feel more than a hint of nostalgia when you look through British rails corporate identity manual.

Mine arrived late, and now I can only read it. Standing up. British Rail jokes. Don’t go down! Well, in Singapore, I have the rolling in the aisles. If we were in Scunthorpe, you know it’s visual identity, this iconic visual identity extends to the trains. It extends that their uniforms of the people that used to run them very attractive, dapper. Looking chap they’re, you know the best style guides.

Explain the. Why, as well as the how – and this is especially true when it comes to designing things like logo marks or symbols, and I’m fascinated as someone that didn’t study graphic designers to how these symbols are created. You know understanding the thinking that goes into designing a symbol can help people appreciate how and then, when to use very of it. You know this matter is now more than ever before.

I think, because this symbol can be reproduced at any number of different screen sizes across this whole array of devices, and it’s especially important when we think about reproducing symbols against dark color backgrounds, so color, icons and type. They should all complement each other within a design, and style guide should really demonstrate how to combine these elements to achieve the most effective result.

You know, I really love the precision. That’s gone into designing this signage. Is it only me who thinks that this is like the best website button you’ve ever seen in knowing how an icons been designed goes hand in hand with understanding how to use it and fully appreciating principles and proportions makes working an icon into a design at the Right size and with the right amount of white space around it much much easier.

Of course, not every icon or symbol needs precision. I’m always amused. When I read that to maker the Skype cloud, we can use circles any size and placement and shape, but make sure it looks cloud — is –. You know for this style guide that I designed for Sun Life. I went beyond simply documenting the icons and tried to use those icons themselves to add personality to the style guide and with almost all of their style guide pages.

This icon page was, you, know, thoughtfully art directed. I wanted to include the anatomy of an icon and how to design one with the correct proportions. You know. Actually, I adjusted the proportions of the circles in the Sun Life logo so that each one was like 75 % larger than the one before in the sunrise and then built the grid around that. So it explains how I use those proportions to create a grid that then became the foundation for all these future icon designs.

And then I described how to use those same principles to create graphic illustration, so that every graphic illustration, every graphic element, has a relationship back to the proportions in the Sun Life logo and explaining these processes clearly to future designers is really going to help to maintain Standards and hopefully consistency, especially as the collection of these icons and illustrations grows, and I think, because it’s always better to show something.

Rather than tell, I use those same kind of graphic illustrations right the way across the star guide to bring that to life. So in all of the work that I do, I try to use creative design to improve not only how something looks, but also how effective it is and style guides should be much more than just guides to a library of patterns. You know they can inspire people to make better designs, they can teach people the importance of good design and why it’s important to keep our standards high.

You know style guides also the perfect place where we can experiment if you’ve been aching to try out a new design or layout technique like CSS grid. You can do that away from the normal Reince of browser support. You know I want to stretch expectations about what a style guide that’s been developed with HTML and with CSS can look like you know. I want to win, I hope, to inspire people to learn more about those technologies through the style code.

You know it’s also. The perfect perfect place to document the history of a design. These these stories often get lost really easily in the fast-paced environment of today’s design and development. Yes, so, instead of showing finished work in the case, study finished working as a case study in your portfolio. Write about those thought processes show your designs evolution. This is really important to documenting the history of the web.

You know the best the best systems are based on a solid set of principles, so it’s really really important. That style guide explains these well. I promise that I would mention OD again they’ve done what many people haven’t yet achieved and that’s make this tool. That’s as practical for designers as it is for developers. You know, they’ve really succeeded in letting the sole of their brand shine through in the style guide.

I’d like to think we can all learn a lot from that example. Design principles are something that Shopify’s Polaris describes incredibly well, you know hats off to these guys. I think this Polaris is the best style guide. I’ve seen for the last couple of years. It does a lot of things right. You know it starts with accessibility and Polaris makes a really good case for making usability for everyone and building inclusive experiences, part of its principles.

You know it’s showing really what to do and what not to do not just documenting a set of guidelines but showing graphic examples, and I suppose, because a design system is never finished, Polaris also makes it really easy for people to collaborate on its development. You know and why not bring those design principles off the screen and into a three-dimensional world. These posters were designed by an intern, Salesforce and now they’re everywhere around the Salesforce organization, to remind their people of their design principles every day, yeah, you might choose to break the model altogether.

You might combine all of these elements of your visual identity and patterns into a single sheet poster for your designers or developers, or maybe even third-party agencies that you work with to hang up on their wall. You know the possibilities are really endless, so I hope that I’ve inspired you to think a little bit more creatively about the design of your own style guides and component and pattern libraries, and also why creative design can inspire and inform people better.

So thank you very. Very much for listening.


 

By Jimmy Dagger

Find out my interests on my awesome blog!

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