Primary Designer, Design Engineer
Process ideation and QA: Danny Wiser, Jessica Versaw
Creating processes and procedures for a distributed team to design at-scale.
Rapid growth is exciting for any company, and a lot can change when your design team scales from 2 to 15 in four years. What works for a fast-and-loose gang of designers doesn’t do much for a serious, distributed, and remote team of professionals. We were accruing a dangerous amount of technical and organizational debt in our Figma files. Something had to change.
In late 2020, I got the best news that a design team leader could get: finance approved our request for a Figma Organization license. With the new license, we'd be able to create actual products and teams around unique and expansive projects. On top of that, we’d have access to powerful shared design libraries and an upsetting amount of analytics.
I was ecstatic, but apprehensive. Laissez-faire management of a powerful system like this would only compound the issue of tech debt. We needed a process!
Enter the DAM - a Digital Asset Management system for creating, maintaining, and supporting design creation. The designers at Spreetail needed a consistent way of working together, even when they weren’t working together. Along with consistency, the DAM needed to be extensible so it wouldn’t become another piece of debt on the pile.
I started with naming conventions. All names in Figma now followed a style guide - files, projects, teams, components, and even layers. Next, I set a standard for organizing files and projects within Figma. Creating a delineation between project types helped designers bucket their work in a predictable way. After that, I created a system of semantic versioning specific to our Figma instance. This spawned an entire set of guidelines on what construed a major or minor change to a component or file, and what to do in each circumstance. Finally, I provided resources and guidelines for organizing content within a File itself. Using a consistent file-cover component easily showed work status and ownership. Creating a static ordering for pages within a File provided an easy structure for jumping right into someone’s work. I later expanded on this further with my “Scaffolding” plugin.
After a series of iterations and tests, the DAM was in a working state and set as the official standard for operation within our Figma. Over the last few years, it’s grown and changed with the team’s needs, and has been a success.