Starting small, a lesson from the shore

A boy on the beach at sunrise

Every year, my family comes to the ocean on vacation. We started a tradition years ago where a few early risers in the family wake early to greet the sunrise. When I stood on shore this morning and stared out to the horizon, I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed by its enormity.

I got thinking about how the prospect of design systems work can feel like that, but not in a good way… more like, you can’t even begin to fathom the enormity of what needs to be done. Instead of the zen-like calm, this ocean of work can often bring tidal waves of anxiety.

Something I’ve found that helps: start small.

Choose something small yet important that users of your design system really need right now and that you can deliver in a single sprint. It could be a Figma library of your brand colors or a single component in a shared npm package. Don’t get hung up on the choice, just find something small and valuable, then…

Do it. Knock it out, get it delivered, and see it all the way through to release.

Then do it again.

Keep doing this for 90 days, then step back and see what you’ve done.

You might start to get more strategic about what you choose or how these piece fit together, but at least you’ve got some significant momentum behind you at that point.

Jesse Gardner

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