Yesterday was a long day, but a very good one.

It started around 4:30am. I dragged myself out of bed, fed the kittens a bit before dawn1, and shambled to the shower. After I got dressed, I poured a massive cup of coffee for myself, wolfed down a little breakfast, and walked to my office to speak to some friends in Australia.

I met the folks from SydCSS some years ago, when I was in Sydney for a conference back in 2014. I was just there for one meetup, but I was so impressed by the community Fiona and David had built — it’s really something special. So when Fiona invited me to speak at SydCSS’ seventh birthday, I leapt at the chance. After all, there’s a very short list of people I’d give a 5:30am talk for, and the SydCSS folks are near the very top of it.

Here’s the video of the whole meetup:

You can jump directly to my talk, but you’d be missing some of the best parts of the meetup. I mean, various folks in the community made some truly remarkable cakes to celebrate SydCSS’ seventh birthday, and Mike Sharp’s faux-news segment was as hilarious as it was filled with HTML & CSS puns. In general, it was a real joy to see how some truly wonderful folks have brought their community online over the last few months — the distances are greater, but they can still take some (virtual) space to reconnect with each other, and to make each other laugh.

I think my talk went pretty well, all things told. It was a short little thing called “On the design systems between us,” and it was an expansion on some ideas I’ve been exploring: that there are some significant liabilities and limitations in how we’ve approached design systems for the web, and how we build them into our organizations — and what’s more, there might be better models for us to consider. The talk wouldn’t exist without the work and thinking of many, many folks, including Alla Kholmatova, Mark Boulton, and Robin Rendle. And as always, Liz helped me smooth out the shape of the talk, and turn it into something coherent. I’m grateful to each and all of them.

The SydCSS meetup finished as sunlight was beginning to filter into my office, so I poured another cup of coffee, and waited for the day to start in earnest. I kept my caffeine intake steady throughout the morning, because there was another call on my schedule: sitting down for a webinar the folks at Knapsack and Jeff Eaton, one of my partners at Autogram.

The webinar was, in a word, fun! Andrew from Knapsack kicked things off with an excellent overview about what design systems promised the industry — and what they haven’t quite capitalized on — and then we just chatted with the attendees for a bit. We talked about some of the challenges we’re seeing in our work at Autogram, and some of the advice we share with our clients. But I have to say, folks: if you get a chance to chat big, weird systems problems with Jeff Eaton, I can thoroughly recommend the experience. Heck, if you were there, you have some sense of how much fun I have in the Autogram slack room every day. The hour-long chat just flew by — I suppose some of that might have been the pot of coffee I’d been chugging since dawn — and I was a little sad how quickly it ended.

Two big social events in one day is a lot for me these days — this year? — but I felt exhausted and energized by the end of it. A lot of the talk around design systems right now feel like conversations that need to happen, as folks are really starting to ask what’s next for their practices. And if yesterday was any indication, those conversations are filled with good, thoughtful people asking interesting questions. There’s not much better than that.

  1. An early, pre-dawn breakfast? You’d better believe the kittens were thrilled — thrilled — by this development.