Design Leader Insights - Jarvis Moore on Design Systems at LinkedIn

January 16, 2023


Alex Smith: Hey Jarvis, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Jarvis Moore: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me.

Alex Smith: Yeah, for sure. And to get started, can you give the audience a little bit of background on your journey in UX?

Jarvis Moore: Yeah. So my journey started from graphic design, you know, started as a self taught graphic designer, I did photography, I did a little bit of web design, all of the things to try to make money in college. So I went to college for engineering, because I was like, yeah, like, they make a lot of money. I should do that. Hated it. Absolutely hated it. And so I switched my major to computer science, because by the time I realized I hated engineering, I realized that I did like design, but they didn't offer that as a major where I was going. I kind of knew that design was what I enjoyed more than coding, but I didn't really do anything until an opportunity presented itself to like, either go work as a designer full time, or stay in school. And I was like, you know what, I'm a broke college kid. Like, let's see what happens. Like worst case. I suck at it. And I can go back to school, and like, it's no big deal. So I did that. The Oklahoma City Dodgers and the AAA affiliate to the LA Dodgers was the first place where I was an actual, like, full time hired designer. They didn't call me a designer. They call me a digital marketing specialist. Whatever, whatever worked for them, I was cool with it. I really loved doing the work. But I hated the subjectivity of graphic design, where, even though I was trying to put the research, like reasoning into why I designed something the way that I did. At the end of the day, clients would be like, I just don't like purple, so make an orange. And I'm like, but, but your customers!  And they just didn't care. 

Alex Smith: Yeah. 

Jarvis Moore: And so I kept hearing these rumblings about UX. UX is this thing where you, like back it with research, and all of this, and it's like data driven. And I was like, that's what I'm missing with what I'm doing now. So now I am a Senior Product Designer at LinkedIn, working on their design systems team. And so typically, like my day to day focus is around maintaining our science system libraries, and doing Figma and design system education. 

Alex Smith: I do want to dive into design systems. You're working on an enterprise design system? How do you ensure that building, maintaining, and then it sounds like you're training other teams to use this design system.How do you ensure that it's actually being used correctly?

Jarvis Moore: Yeah, I think a big part of why they're not successful is that they're not built for the teams that they need the support. I think that when people hear design system, they're like, oh, like, you just make components. And that's it, like you make a component, you ship it, boom, it's out there, you don't think about it, again, is not the case. Communication is a bigger thing than the actual design portion of design systems. So the biggest way to make sure our system succeeds is to talk to the people who have to use it. 

Alex Smith: Yeah.

Jarvis Moore: Because even if you have something that is, could be useful to them, like, you know, you have the buttons or form fields, this component or that component that they could need, if it's not made in a way where they can access it, or they know how to use it, then they won't. 

Alex Smith: Yeah.

Jarvis Moore: And so every design system is super unique to where you have to cater it to your customers, those are our consumers are the designers that are working on the products that are going out into the public. So even though most design systems aren't, you know, user-facing, they are users or designers. 

Alex Smith: Yeah. Are you also looping in then product and engineering into that process? Are they parts? I mean, I imagine they're oftentimes end users have that design system? 

Jarvis Moore: Yeah, we partner really closely with our engineering counterparts. Product is a little different, because typically, we interact with them more when we're interacting with the design teams. Especially when it comes to like adoption and implementation. That's a lot of like, you know, meeting with PMs and seeing how roadmaps are when they will have the time to implement new changes or all of those types of things. Typically when product gets moved in, but on a day to day basis, it is definitely design and engineering. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, exactly. And where do you think design systems are headed, and where do you see future iterations going?

Jarvis Moore: I don't think that they're going to go anywhere. I know a lot of people think that design systems kind of stifle creativity. But I feel like for the really, really well built systems, they will actually, kind of, I think that they're gonna kind of absorb into design ops, in a sense.

Alex Smith: Yeah.

Jarvis Moore: To where it's not gonna be as much about the components themselves. But managing the relationships between teams, which is a lot of what design systems designers do is, because we're a horizontal team, and we work with everybody, we tend to see the places where teams aren't working, super efficient, where they're not talking to each other, we can say, hey, like, they're working on that over there, you should, you should go talk to them. Because I think they may have built what you need already. You can just use that. Even if it's something that doesn't need to go in the system. So I felt like what kind of go up into design ops and, and be a part of that piece of design in the future.

Alex Smith: Jarvis, let's switch gears here. What advice do you have for new designers entering the field today that might be pulled towards that direction of wanting to work on the design system?

Jarvis Moore: Just like general, what advice would I give for designers is to be able to tell the story of the work that you're doing. Because a lot of them, like have the skills to do the job. But you also have to communicate that. So work on how you're telling that story. Don't just say, you know, here's a client brief. I did X, Y, and Z. And then here's the result like that doesn't really tell us anything. We expect you to be able to do those things. So why did you do them, though? Where's the meaning behind it? So it took me a while to figure out how to do that. I've mentored a lot of people, and that's one of the biggest thing is I'm telling them was like, yes, I know, you can do an affinity map. Why did you feel like you needed to do one, though? Like, what purpose did that hold in the project? So really, drawing out that why, and telling the story will pay huge dividends when you're like interviewing and talking with people about your work, because they see that you actually understand when to apply these things. And you're not just doing it because you feel like you need to, And then the other thing is with that, like, don't be afraid to break the, you know, design journey, like you don't have to do A, B, C, D, every time. Sometimes you're gonna go straight to D, sometimes you'll go to B and then skip to D, sometimes you'll do C, then B, like, it doesn't matter. Do whatever works for the project, like, design isn't this black and white field that a lot of other things are. We are 100% in the gray. And so I think the biggest, like, release I see from people is like, you're gonna test this later. Like, don't, don't feel like you have to come up with the perfect thing. And don't feel like you have to have the perfect process. Just do what you feel like is best in the moment. You're gonna test it later. If it passes the test. Cool. You did fantastic. If not, you just got to do it again. It's okay. It's no big deal. 99% of the time, it's gonna be wrong the first time.

Alex Smith: So Jarvis, I'm a big, big fan of LinkedIn. It's my only social media, I think, the way that it enables people to connect with potential employers and people to learn from, I'm encouraging designers to go follow product people and development people to get those diverse perspectives. And you can just learn so much from that tool. How does the design system kind of drive that collaboration? Was there intent behind designing? I guess, like safety and reaching out to others? Or how'd you build that community with a design system?

Jarvis Moore: Yeah, so one, LinkedIn is my actual only social media too like, I have Facebook and Instagram, and there's others, but I don't really use them. So right there with you like LinkedIn is the reason why I got hired at LinkedIn. And I got hired at a bunch of other places. The design system and like the work that we're doing, plays a pretty much direct role and like the future of LinkedIn, the product, because we have a lot of influence on the entirety of product we can we can push a lot of the innovation and technology and change with the system where individual teams just don't have the time and the capacity to do it. So if there's new tech that came out that will make engineers' lives easier, we can update our components to leverage that technology and then say, here you go. We just gave you a head start. Same with like design tokens, same with the components that are in the system as like, okay, we want to go to this new version of a LinkedIn, which is in the works right now. Where I know there's been a lot of changes in the UI and the interface recently, with like the pretty, pretty big change last year. Dark Mode getting implemented. I know on mobile, there's been like new splash screens and like little stuff like that with the way that we're using color. A lot of that stemmed from the design system in us implementing those colors and those styles and those patterns there. And giving designers that freedom to just run with it.

Alex Smith: Nice. Yeah, no, I love some of the changes I've seen. And yeah, continue to use that tool daily. So congrats on that work, and thanks so much for coming on the show.

Jarvis Moore: Yeah, it's been a pleasure. You know, if you ever want to have me again, let me know. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, for sure.