As we crafted Pallet's core features, I worked with the executive and engineering teams to begin elevating our design practices. Static, messy files became a set of organized specs centered around a new design system.
Sole Designer, 10-person team • May → June 2021
When I entered Pallet, we had just worked with Z1.digital to define Pallet's brand and lay out some initial UI. However, the provided specs were static with a scarce set of components underlying them. There was no proper scaffolding for engineers to build designs out — other than by eye.
A System for Designers and Engineers
Struggling with manual frontend tasks in my first weeks, I decided to build a design system and lead by example in my design work to make everyone's life easier — engineers and future designers alike.
Color, spacing, and layout had been defined by Z1, so I focused on building out reusable atoms and molecules that appeared throughout Pallet's interface.
Atoms allowed us to explore microinteractions — hover, press, and select states for common components breathed life into an otherwise unresponsive interface.
For engineers, atoms in the design system modeled how a Figma component could be broken down analogously to its implementation in React, portraying both its "base" component and the manifestation of different state-dependent styles.
UI specs mirrored their implementation's counterpart in the layer breakdown, and appropriate layer names and constraints improved their clarity.
This overhaul required the support of the engineering team to have any effect. So I prepared a curriculum to demonstrate specific design-engineering handoff practices in Figma.
As the visual style morphed in the last weeks of my internship, I halted work on a system that now needed a total refresh. However, Pallet's new design practices allowed the engineering team to evolve the product with increased productivity during a crucial period for the company. Ultimately, I took great joy in learning how to set the designers and engineers around me up for success.
On a final note...
If your team is interested next year in a designer who thinks deeply about engineers and systems, I would be delighted to hear from you. Once my master's concludes around mid-2022, I'm seeking to work on complex problems with passionate folks that can nurture my early-career growth. firstname.lastname@example.org!
edit: nevermind i got hired by airtable but always feel free to reach out :)