I’ve launched four new courses on design systems, and they’re available for free at Aquent Gymnasium. I had a lot of fun working on these little courses, and I hope you like them.

As it happens, the idea for these courses grew out of discussions I’ve had over the last few years, where I kept hearing a constant, persistent refrain from friends, colleagues, and clients: that design systems work feels challenging. After all, there’s no simple framework or template for creating a design system, because “creating a design system” means something different at every organization. What’s more, researching design systems will quickly uncover a dizzying array of new terms, technologies, and skills. And if you’re a moderately busy person, it can feel overwhelming to sift through it all.

But I created these courses to tell you something: you got this. Seriously! I truly believe you have the skills you’ll need to create a design system. To the developers reading this, you bring a significant amount of modular thinking to bear when you’re creating components. Designer friends, you already think in systems, applying reusable, pattern-driven ideas to the interfaces you create. And product managers, you translate complex requirements into manageable timelines, and balance day-to-day priorities against long-term strategic needs. In other words, each and every one of these skills will provide you with what you’ll need to create a design system.

If that’s got you excited, then let’s go! Here’re the courses:

As you might have guessed from the titles, we’ve broadly organized the courses around roles: whether you’re a designer, a developer, or a product manager, we’ve got something for you. Each course focuses on what I think are the fundamentals of design systems work, so I’ve designed them to be both high-level and packed with information. There are practical, hands-on exercises you can apply to your work, and I’ve peppered each course with resources from my favorite systems-minded designers, developers, and product leads.

You might’ve noticed the first course has a more general-sounding title, which was a deliberate decision: Design Systems for Everyone is an optional starting point for…well, everyone. The other courses’ introductions have a condensed version of the same material, but Design Systems for Everyone does a fair bit of level-setting, and broadly sketches out the rough trajectory that I’ve seen most design systems follow.

But the other reason we started with a course for everyone is that, well, design systems are created by everyone. That’s the not-so-secret pitch at the heart of these courses: a design system relies on collaboration between people across different disciplines. A design system is successful when a team works together to define a shared language to talk about the design of their products. That language is what shapes your system, and how you’ll each work with it — and each other — every day.

Anyway! I do hope you enjoy the courses, and that you’ll find something useful in them. But before I close, I’d like to thank the Gymnasium team for inviting me to create these courses. Working with them on these longer-format videos was just as fun as the short tutorial videos I released last year, and this was a real highlight of 2020. Thanks to Jeremy, Justin, and the rest of the Gymnasium team for being such magnificent collaborators. This was, to put it mildly, a blast.