Writing

One of the best ways to learn something is to write about it.

My journey as a developer, designer, founder, and speaker has been impacted tremendously when I've taken the time to write about what I've learned.

There is always someone ahead of you, and there will always be someone a little further behind. I believe it's each person's job to share what they're learning, to help complete that chain of knowledge. Below, you'll find articles, research, notes, and ideas from my journey of learning.

I write and speak mostly about design systems, culture, and being better humans.

Recent Writings

Design System Tooling

January 27, 2024 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 8 of The Question on design system tooling.

Multi-platform Design Systems

January 11, 2024 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 7 of The Question on multi-platform design systems.

Fixing Design System Contribution

December 17, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 6 of The Question on fixing design system contribution.

How Much of a Rule Breaker are You?

December 10, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 5 of The Question on breaking the rules of your company.

Design System Communication Strategies

December 1, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 4 of The Question on design system communication strategies.

Design Sytem Team Makeup

November 18, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 3 of The Question on design system team makeup.

Inside Out, or Outside In?

November 10, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as part of Episode 2 of The Question on whether you should start your design system from the inside out or from the outside in.

Product Designer vs Systems Designer

November 3, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A summary of the deep-dive conversation we had as a part the first episode of The Question on the difference between a Product Designer and a Systems Designer.

Portraits

October 16, 2023 | bencallahan.com

It doesn't matter how well you understand the camera if you don't understand the person.

The Middle Piece

September 29, 2023 | bencallahan.com

If you're stuck on a specific design system task, sometimes the best option is to pause that work and focus elsewhere.

The Power of Your Language

August 17, 2023 | bencallahan.com

The core of your design system should be the language you use, not specific instances of patterns. And that language should be derived from the values of the organization. Your job is to make sure the language is spoken fluently and then to trust in the power it offers.

Intent to Collaborate

August 9, 2023 | bencallahan.com

Instead of highlighting what folks have done wrong, be a student of what they've done right. Only then you can establish a system that is true to the context where it must thrive.

Good and Bad

August 3, 2023 | bencallahan.com

A reminder that every situation is an opportunity and that a good part of the work of creating a more systematic design program is educating individuals and teams about the effort.

Observation

July 31, 2023 | bencallahan.com

The most critical skill for any design system leader is the ability to observe what is already working well.

Design System Doc Site Findability

July 28, 2023 | bencallahan.com

The second most important feature of your design system documentation site is findability.

Stay True

July 27, 2023 | bencallahan.com

Good people will try hard to pull you away from the most impactful part of design system work—unity. Don't let them.

Design System Metrics Correlation

July 25, 2023 | bencallahan.com

Your job is not to track everyone else's success. It's to correlate that success with the adoption of your system.

Step into the Stream

April 24, 2023 | bencallahan.com

Connecting some learnings from Rick Rubin and Arthur C. Brooks on how being attentive to what's around us is a key to living a more fulfilling life.

Earthly vs Unearthly

April 18, 2023 | bencallahan.com

The juxtaposition between the "earthly" and the "unearthly" and a way to integrate nature into our everyday creativity.

Design System Culture

March 23, 2023 | The Sparkbox Foundry

An exploration of the undeniable link between an organization's culture and the approach of its design system. The technical and creative aspects of a design system are important, but they are only two parts of a three-part puzzle.

A Framework for Maturing a Design System

January 11, 2023 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A very simple framework for maturing a design system in a healthy way. Because implementing a design system is asking everyone to change how they work, it's necessary to consider each task you prioritize through this lens.

Fluency

June 27, 2022 | bencallahan.com

Why "fluency" combined with "values-alignment" is such an important part of the hiring process. One is teachable, the other is not.

Consistency vs Flexibility: The Myth of Creative Restraint in Design Systems

June 9, 2022 | The Sparkbox Foundry

Though they have numerous benefits, design systems are still sometimes seen as design constraints. Understand how creating a culture of trust can bridge this gap between consistency and flexibility in your design system.

The Anatomy of a Design System

April 13, 2022 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A design system can unify different disciplines and lead to improved consistency, efficiency, and much more. Let's define a shared understanding of how systems connect core brand elements with digital interfaces and empower teams to work together effectively.

A Maturity Model for Design Systems

February 23, 2021 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A model of healthy design system growth based on years of research. Learn the different stages of maturity and where your system fits.

The Never-Ending Job of Selling Design Systems

February 11, 2021 | A List Apart

A collection of ideas on how to present the common benefits of design systems to the executives who must support and fund them.

Be Better: Impact

March 11, 2019 | The Sparkbox Foundry

An exploration of ways to make in impact where you are.

Be Better: Accessibility

October 15, 2018 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A bit about the criticality of accessibility in our work on the Web.

Be Better: Unity

June 11, 2018 | The Sparkbox Foundry

An exploration of how design systems can help to build unity inside your organization.

Be Better: Investing in Your Team

October 16, 2017 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A framework for investing in your team, leading to greater buy-in and innovation.

A Framework for Collaboration

October 9, 2017 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A framework for valuable collaboration that considers the diversity of perspectives and the amount of empathy a team demonstrates.

Self Actualization

February 6, 2017 | The Sparkbox Foundry

Journeying inward, not upward: this post shares how “Westworld” provides a unique perspective on helping the folks on your team become the best versions of themselves.

On Values

December 6, 2016 | The Sparkbox Foundry

Values are the context for your culture. In this piece, I try to demystify “trusting your heart” by sharing that “your heart” is simply the things that matter most to you—your values.

Project Drag

September 22, 2015 | bencallahan.com

Some ideas on how to shape your project work to create just the right amount of drag.

Cathedral

July 28, 2015 | bencallahan.com

A few observations from my trip to see the Notre-Dame Cathedral about the immediacy with which we create today, and the speed with which our work decays.

Roots

February 23, 2015 | bencallahan.com

Some thoughts from my reading of Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac about earning your heat and learning from the past.

Dissecting Design

September 4, 2013 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A few ideas on how to restructure the design process to account for the inherent flexibility of the Web.

Group Improvisation

July 3, 2013 | The Sparkbox Foundry

To the industry obsessed with process and workflow, I offer this alternative approach to product design and development.

There is no Breakpoint

February 7, 2013 | The Sparkbox Foundry

What breakpoints should we use in responsive web design? As commonly as it's asked, this may be the wrong question. Join me as we take a tumble down the rabbit hole, beyond the breakpoint.

The Responsive Dip

June 19, 2012 | The Sparkbox Foundry

A 30,000 foot view of the Web industry's current state as it relates to responsive web design.


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