Articles by Emmet Connolly
- The Full Stack Design System
Emmet discusses how most products degrade over time due to a lack of adherence to a solid design system. It advocates for a "full stack" design system approach that embodies product concepts at every level, from conceptual models and shared language to design resources and code components. This helps create consistent products rather than just consistent UIs. Emmet explains how Intercom uses this approach through examples of their "Conversation" object. Their design system allows them to keep products simple and flexible even as new capabilities are added. This helps prevent products from falling into a "Pit of Complexity" as is common without such a unified design approach.
- Design Leadership as a Subversive Activity at Intercom
Design processes tend to break down as companies scale up, so leaders should take a subversive approach to constantly evolve them. While some structure is needed, an overemphasis on rigid processes can stifle creativity. Emmet advocates an anti-entropic feedback model where leaders solicit feedback and look for ways to question and improve existing approaches. Early management theories optimized workers like machines on assembly lines, but modern knowledge workers thrive with more autonomy. Emmet also discusses how curiosity, while an asset for designers, can also be a liability if not properly guided. The ideal is a balance of guardrails rather than strict rules to allow innovation while maintaining alignment.