San Francisco, California

Resistant to data

The other day I was talking to Jules about the 99% Invisible episode she’d written about. In that post, Jules excitedly quotes the episode with Hank Green where he says:

[...] there are all these phenomena in human life that are really resistant to language. I think physical pain is the one that’s perhaps most dramatically resistant to language.

But, for me, there’s also something about taste that’s resistant to language and one of the reasons we fight, I think, about Hawaiian pizza is because we almost cannot describe to each other how it tastes to us.

There are so many things that are resistant to language! And a couple of weeks ago I was in hospital, I had contracted appendicitis, and whilst I was in the ER I was asked how much pain I was in and wow. I found that I have no idea how to put my experience on a chart! My pain is...a...6 maybe? Is that too much? Is my 6 someone else’s 4?

This had me thinking about how design systems is resistant to data in a similar way; it’s almost impossible to measure the success or failure of a design system. It’s impossible to say that having seven modal components instead of one is a good idea and it’s impossible to say what effect four different illustration styles is having on your design and engineering team.

How much does your team need a UI Kit? Is that a 6 or a 7?

I reckon all efforts to measure the success of a design system will come up short and are more likely do harm by measuring them. There is no-one that can tell you how bad things are, you just have to be close enough to the code and close enough to the design to feel things out.