Kate Halvorsen and Cintia Romero
Chris Strahl: Hi, and welcome to the Design Systems podcast. This podcast is about the place where design and development overlap. We talk with experts to get their point of view about trends in design, code, and how it relates to the world around us. As always, this podcast is brought to you by Knapsack. Check us out at knapsack.cloud. If you want to get in touch with the show, ask some questions, or generally tell us what you think, go ahead and tweet us @TheDSPod. We'd love to hear from you. Hey everybody, Chris Strahl here with the Design Systems Podcast. Today I'm talking to Kate Halverson and Cinita Romero. You all are both from Pinterest. Kate, you're a Staff Product Designer, Cinita, you're a Senior Product Designer, and you both work on the Gestalt design system. Welcome to the program.
Cinita: We are so happy to be here.
Chris Strahl: Before the show, we had chatted a little bit about the uniqueness of the Gestalt design system and that you all have a big task, and that is the creation of a design system for content that isn't yours, that is also global content, that is also broadly very large scale. Talk to me a little bit about all this stuff.
Cinita: We have been doing a lot of great work at Gestalt on Pinterest to make sure that we have the documentation that designers need, engineers need, and why not, program managers and product managers can also use and benefit from the system. It has been a lot of work. I don't know if you follow how much the Gestalt documentation has progressed through the years, but today we have been developing new ways to show our documentation and to support not only the users of the system, but how do we support our Pinners as well.
Chris Strahl: Well, and you bring up a good point. It is public and so you can go check it out, right? It's Gestalt.Pinterest.Systems, right?
Cinita: Yes. It's an open source actually design system, and everybody can go, take a look, and give us feedback, people.
Kate: I've had the benefit now of working on three different systems. I worked at Atmos at United Airlines, I've worked on Cookbook at GrubHub, and now Gestalt at Pinterest. Gestalt is definitely kind of the most evolved of the design systems that I've worked on. It's interesting, you start at this very basic level of we're just going to build components and focus on that, and then you kind of get to this, "Okay, we're going to evolve into documentation and we're going to get really specific about documentation and making sure that we have that nailed down." Then you get to Pinterest where we have components, we have a good base for documentation, and now we're starting to add levels on that like animation and we're building out the mobile library more in depth, and so it's kind of these new layers on top of the base design system, which is fun.
Chris Strahl: Yeah, I really like how you all have organized this as well because there's the traditional, "Here's some docs to help you get started with things," and then all the things that you would expect, right? Foundations, where you have a bunch of things around tokens and standards, your component library, but then you have this really interesting section for team support where you can actually talk about advocacy and contribution. I think that's really interesting too because there's a lot in here about things like design file hygiene and training, and so you give people a place to get help and to also be good contributors. Then, having a roadmap that's public along with a set of release notes that's really well crafted and goes back forever. You can see how the system evolves and how the work you've done... By the way, I love the release notes being updated in terms of design updates, engineering updates, and how you can filter that. That's really fun too.
But you can sort of see how things have evolved and how this system has gone from something a couple of years ago to what it is now, and the ability to sort of see the story progress in the actual UI of the place where you're delivering that is so cool.
Kate: Cinita's over here cheering because she just wrote those team support docs.
Cinita: Yeah, not only me, the whole team helped a lot with that. It makes me so happy, Chris, to hear that because when we think on design systems, we are not just thinking about components, code samples, and Figma libraries, we really embrace Gestalt as a community. It's a community for our designers, a community for our engineers, and everybody else, cross-functional partners and external folks too. We want our design system to be really a source of truth, not only for Pinterest, but we wanted to help folks beyond Pinterest. The team support page, the goal for this is how we support our users, how do they understand how to create files like the file hygiene, is there any way that we can help them to do things right and to benefit from Gestalt? There are a lot of thinking on a community level of how do we improve things for everyone that goes through Gestalt? It makes me so happy to hear. I was cheering when you were talking like, "Yes, woo-hoo, we're doing that great." But yeah, thank you for mentioning that.
Kate: Yeah. Chris, you said before on the podcast that design systems are about the people who build them. I think something that's really important, especially to Cinita and I, is creating this kind of environment of education that the designers, if they have any questions, not only can they reach out to us on Slack or email, but they can also sign up for these training sessions where we teach them how to use Gestalt, how to pull components into their files, and then especially our accessibility trainings where we discuss how to kind of be a better designer as far as accessibility.
Chris Strahl: I love the whole way that it's organized. I also love that you all have a lot of links in here that take you other places. I think one of the great things for design systems, when you talk about it being a place where everybody can leave it better than they found it, that includes the ability to make it a gathering place for other external resources. There's a lot of stuff in the system I can't click on and actually see where it goes, like I definitely clicked request a component and that seems like a link that takes you to some sort of internal system, but I love that idea that you're trying to aggregate all the actions related to the design system all in one place.
The other part of this that is interesting is you all serve such a huge variety of people all across the planet, and so when you think about that, it's hard to talk about something with that much reach and that much sort of expansiveness without thinking about the ideas of accessibility and inclusivity. I know this is a passion topic for both of you, and so I'm here to kind of just wind you up and let you go on this. The ideas that you've baked into the design system related to accessibility I think are really interesting. In particular, Cinita, you had a couple of things that you wanted to talk about here.
Cinita: Yes, if you see Pinterest today, when you think about global users, I believe today we have about 460 million of active users on Pinterest and this is a lot, like, "Whoa, it's a lot." We have 1 billion people worldwide. How do you make sure when we say, "Pinterest's mission is to bring everyone the inspiration to create the life that they love," when you say the word everyone, are we really thinking about everyone? How do we make sure that we include every single user that we can create an experience that can be used for the most amount of users that we can provide the same experience? We think a lot on accessibility. Not only accessibility, but also inclusive design, are we treating our users right?
One example, when you think on design systems and you think on form fields, you have an input to write your name and last name. For example, myself, I am from Brazil, I have a huge last name. When I go to fill certain form fields and I try to add my last name, it says, "Oh, it's not a valid last name. You need a shorter word for your last name." I'm like, "Whoa, but this is my last name. How am I going to subscribe for this? I need to change my last name so I'm able to do a signup for something." On Pinterest, we try to evaluate those things on Gestalt. Okay, how do we treat inclusivity, people from different countries, different areas, different cultural backgrounds, how do we deal with localization, how things they get translated in different language that has more characters?
A lot of our work on Gestalt is to make sure that we are really caring about everyone and thinking about every user case that we can. We know [inaudible] a lot of things to do, we are far away from perfect, but it's one of our goals, not only me and Kate. We are here to present Gestalt today, but the entire team on Gestalt from our manager, PJ, who is amazing, to everybody else, everyone, even our print designer, is focused on accessibility. This is one of our top goals for Gestalt.
Chris Strahl: Yeah, so Kate, what are some of the ways that this is made manifest in the actual system itself? What's different about the design system because you've thought about accessibility than maybe if you hadn't?
Kate: I think about, again, going back to previous systems I've worked on, I think the biggest contrast is just, and this is very ethereal and not grounded in anything, but just this feeling of empathy in the product that when you're using Pinterest, to some degree, I feel like you can feel that Pinterest caress about how you utilize the product. In previous lives, I run into using a screen reader or something like that, I'll run into an issue and bring it up to a team member or report a bug or something. A big bummer is when you get the response, "We don't have time to fix that" or "That's not a high priority," whereas at Pinterest it is. You say, "Hey, my indicator got trapped when using a screen reader," and everybody's like, "Oh no, that sucks. We got to get that fixed." I think that translates into the product itself. You feel that it was made to work for you, which is wonderful. Obviously, we're not perfect.
Chris Strahl: Well, of course nobody is, right? But what are some of the ways that you do take that time to build that empathy? Because you all flagging something that some other team or some other organization might've found inconsequential and the design and engineering side of Pinterest being like, "All right, well saddle up. We're going to go fix this thing." What creates that difference in culture? Because I think that's what you're talking about is a valuing of inclusivity and accessibility as a part of your culture.
Kate: I think this was Cinita's brainchild, but we do accessibility training for incoming designers or designers that haven't had it yet, and I think we're going to try and do it maybe yearly or something to that degree. But part of that training is that I teach our designers how to use a screen reader, and I am very passionate about that because that was one of the things that totally shifted my perspective. I remember I was in this learning session with Derek Featherstone, who's a really wonderful leader in accessibility, and he showed how inaccessible our experience was at a previous company. I remember feeling so embarrassed and so frustrated, but also very empowered that, "Hey, I'm the person that can fix that. I know how to fix that."
I go into teaching how to use a screen reader with the same hope that designers will feel that feeling that I felt like, "Oh no, this really sucks." It is creating a disability for me, but I'm also the person that can go and fix it and make it not work just better for somebody that perhaps has low vision or something to that effect, but also for everybody that comes and uses the experience. I think it's things like that, just kind of owning up to where we're not perfect and taking on the responsibility to fix it.
Chris Strahl: That's awesome. I love that philosophically. It's funny that you mentioned screen readers. I remember not all that long ago... I mean, look, NASDAQ is the first design company I've ever really owned. I remember when I was first getting started, I had the impression a lot of people do about how headline tags are just bigger, bold text and then realizing that, "Oh, people with screen readers, those are organizational units for how they actually traverse a webpage," and that blew my mind.
Kate: Yeah, the headlines just screaming at you.
Chris Strahl: Exactly. I was like, "Oh, there's so much more to this than I ever realized." I remember my first exploration into that and being so interested in this entire different world and point of view about people that weren't like me in their ability to read a webpage traversed the internet. Cinita, what about you? What was your experience with this about building empathy?
Cinita: I think Kate explained that pretty well. When I joined Pinterest, I was chatting with designers, I was participating on design creates, and I mentioned, "Oh, hey, this is not accessible." People, "Oh, but it is resizing it." They were kind of relating accessibility with responsive design, not really understanding what accessibility was. On the engineering side, people, they had more ideas, but not too much on the design side, and they decided, "Okay, let's create an accessibility training so we can show people what accessibility is, build this empathy, and also share our personal histories." I'm colorblind as well, and certain colors I can't distinguish by just relying on colors. I'm like, "Hey, do you know that some people are colorblind? They can't see..." Oh, but almost nobody's like, "Yes." We have a lot of people who don't know because some disabilities, they're invisible, you can't tell if a person has a disability or not all the time, and we're trying to show that.
Kate, the training, the part that she does on the training on the screen reader, it's pretty interesting because we show our defects. We show Pinterest products, we're not showing any other websites, we're asking designers to go through Pinterest, try to access Pinterest through the keyboard, try to use the screen reader. How do you feel about that? Do you get stuck some of the experience and how does it feel for you? Another thing, long time ago, we have communities at Pinterest who have been able, and the accessibility working group as well, that they do a lot of initiatives to increase accessibility at Pinterest. One time we had one speaker coming up to speak for Pinterest about accessibility. He has this ability, he is blind, and he was trying to fill the form to submit to Pinterest and he couldn't fill the form in our platform.
Oh, this is so bad. How can we improve that? By showing that to our leaders like, "Hey, this is not good. We need to do better. We can't exclude people. We want everyone to use Pinterest." We decided to show what is happening, why people are not accessing the products, why we need to do better. By showing the struggles, by showing the effects that we have on Pinterest product, we can create this empathy and motivate people to do better. Today, Kate and I were talking, "Well, this is so good because we trained so many designers." If we count the amount of designers and engineers that we trained last year, it was over 600 and it was so positive. It was so positive. We got such awesome feedback. People, they had no idea about screen readers. When Kate was teaching, they were like, "Whoa, this is so interesting. I didn't know that this exists, that I could use that. I'm going to start using screen readers to test my design." They were like, "Yes."
Kate: There's a lot of initial panic, which is kind of funny to watch too. It's like, "Oh no, my phone's talking at me so fast." But it's fun to see people figure it out and find issues. I think another part of the accessibility work is learning from folks who are struggling with those abilities, being able to access things. One of my first design system jobs, we actually had an accessibility designer and I think we're trying to figure that out at Pinterest as well. Her name was Meli Manak and she was so wonderful. She encouraged me to take ASL classes so we could goof around at work and talk to each other and nobody would know what we were saying.
But one of the things I loved about her is she, at times, made me feel very uncomfortable and out of my depth, and I think that helped me grow so much as an accessibility advocate because she would point out and she'd be like, "We need captions on this. I can't hear it," and things that I would not even really think about. Learning from the 1 billion folks too, you're bound to have some at your company that this is a very real situation, this is how they access content.
Chris Strahl: I love the idea of how multifaceted this is as a part of culture. What you said about intentionally being a little uncomfortable, I think that one of the things about joining any company is you're already a little uncomfortable when you're joining a new culture and a new group of people and trying to figure out your place in that. The idea of using your own product and intentionally creating that discomfort around where it doesn't work like you'd like it to or maybe like you even expected it to, I think that's really cool. I think that also being able to build relationships and have people on your team that are colorblind designers, that are people that actually have this need that can empathize with users and customers, that's really cool.
It's funny, because you always want to ask the question as an interviewer, "How do you create culture?" But there's no real simple answer to that. You can't be like, "Oh yeah, we had a VP hand down a document and everybody had to sign it, and all of a sudden our culture's different." That's not the way it works. But the idea that you have this very participatory process in learning about this need inside of your organization, I think that's what kind of creates it. It sounds to me like it's really changed the way you all work.
Cinita: Yeah, and it's not only everything on accessibility, create an accessible experience, it benefits everybody, it's not only folks with disabilities. For example, I bet you at a certain moment of your life, you turned on captions while watching a Netflix movie because it helped you to concentrate more, maybe it was noisy and you couldn't focus. I do that all the time. I'm also an immigrant. When I moved to the US, I didn't speak English at all and I wanted to watch movies and to see things here on the US, I used captions all the time to learn English. It was created for people that they have some deaf disability or maybe they are hard of hearing, but it benefits actually everybody. If you think on Pinterest, we had data recently that most of our Pinners, we say Pinners, our users, most of our Pinners, they turn off the audio when they're consuming our videos.
I'm like, "Whoa, we really need captions," because I believe today we only have captions on Android. We are trying to expand that to all the areas so we can make it real or for everybody, and it benefits really everyone. Not only captions, if you think on color like dark mode, it benefits people who have vision issues, but it also benefits people who prefer that because it's a preference thing and maybe the brightness, it's not too good to me. There are a lot of benefits and so many things that you can do to improve the experience.
Chris Strahl: I have a funny video captioning story. I have two young children, I talk about them from time to time on the podcast, but I never understood why people watched video with the sound off all the time until I had kids. Once you get those kids to bed, you can't make a peep for an hour. I figured out, "Okay, I need to figure out how to watch videos with captions so that I can still consume content on the internet," because I'm not sitting there doing anything because I can't make any noise, but I also can't have the video make any noise. I actually had to show my parents how to do this because my parents, they're older, and videos need to be really loud for them to hear it. They would play YouTube videos at deafening volume in the living room while I was trying to put the kids to bed.
I was like, "Here, let me show you how you can not have that be a thing," and now their house is a much quieter, lovelier place to hang out in because I'm not listening to YouTube videos all the time at full volume. But this is a silly anecdote. I mean, that stuff is wonderful because it does have an impact on folks' lives. We actually switched away from Zoom as a company to use a different conference meeting platform because it had live transcription. Actually, it's funny, I was looking at Zencastr, which is the platform we used to record this podcast to see if there was a transcript system because, Cinita, you mentioned this was your first podcast in English, and I'm sorry there's not. By the way, if anybody from Zencastr's listening to this, that'd be a cool feature. You can't really talk about accessibility without talking about inclusive design, but there is some nuance in the difference between them. I wanted to open up that can of worms next and maybe start with what do you all view as the difference between those concepts?
Cinita: I think inclusive design. When you're thinking inclusive, we are really thinking everyone, different cultures, different background, different language and gender. There are so many specs included on that, including accessibility too as part of inclusive design. When you talk about accessibility, we are talking about folks with disabilities, not only permanent disabilities, but also temporary, situational, all the types of disabilities that you can think of, also mental struggles. There are so many things that we don't see, invisible disabilities. It also goes into accessibility and inclusive design thinking in a broader audience, also including accessibility, but also think on this different cultural backgrounds. Especially because we're a global company, so how do we treat folks from different countries, from different areas, and they have different religions, different gender or different information? That is how I see that.
Kate: That makes me think of... I'm at the very beginning stages of working with folks to develop an illustration library at Pinterest, which is very exciting. But we were thinking about localization and one thing that I learned is that the check mark is not always... It doesn't mean done, like good. I think it's like the Nordic countries, I might be wrong about this, but Finland, Sweden, it actually kind of means the opposite of good or done. Having to think about that too, and the context of folks viewing these experiences and how they will feel about them, like are they going to see this illustration and be like, "Oh, I messed something up," because it has a check mark on it, instead of the opposite. I think to some degree that is inclusive design. Then, I think inclusive design also encapsulates accessibility, it's a part of inclusive design.
Chris Strahl: I remember my first brush with this being when I was in Africa actually doing a website for the US military. In that, what we had to think about was internet penetration. If you are in a major city in Africa, at the time, you probably had cell phone service, you maybe even had an iPhone, and it worked in a similar way to how it worked in the US. But the moment you were outside a major city, it was questionable whether you'd have cell phone service at all. In fact, many people carried multiple cell phones to be able to make sure that they could have internet access as they jumped from network to network to network across the country. The idea of what you do to design for that problem space was this really eye-opening moment for me about how you think about your own bias as a designer or an engineer.
I just assume that people have internet access. I assume that people have a cell phone. Cell phone penetration in the United States is very tremendous and networks here are reliable and bandwidth is fast, but it's not that way across the world. To try to think about what that looks like, I just sort of put myself in a position about, "Look, if I was in the mountains of Idaho and I wasn't sure the next time I was going to get cell phone signal, how am I designing for that app?" That was a real opening moment for me for the difference between what accessible design is versus inclusive design, just thinking about how people actually go about accessing the internet and the difference there.
Cinita: Yeah, this is a very good example. Even if you think on voice interface, I remember when I moved here, I never had Alexa or Google Home in Brazil because it was very expensive, I didn't have money to buy that. I got here, "Oh, this is so cool." I wanted to get this. I was speaking, giving comments, and I still have my accent, my Brazilian accent, but it was way higher and way stronger. I was saying like, "Hey, Alexa, play the song, blah, blah, blah." It was all the songs, but not the song that I asked it for because of my accent. I'm like, "I hate this thing. It does not work. It doesn't understand me. I don't want to set up this to speak in Portuguese because I'm learning English." I think, "Okay, how are we treating different cultural background if people have accent?" How do we also use our terminology?
For example, on Design Systems, we write a lot of documentation and sometimes I'm reviewing some copy and my manager's like, "Hey, Cinita, can you help me to review this page?" I'm like, "Hey, can you trim that sentence? I think it's a very cool way that you said that, but this is a very, very specific slang from here. I don't know if people from different cultures... I didn't know that, I needed to search what this means. Could you change that words instead?"We make it more inclusive and people, they feel that they belong on this documentation, they're not being too specific. There are a bunch of things that we can do to make people feel that they belong on that documentation, that they understand what we're creating, they go through our product and they feel, "Oh, I'm home." Because home is where you feel that you belong, it's not like your physical place, so you can feel that you're at home when you're navigating through Pinterest if you feel welcome, if you have a great experience.
But you can feel the opposite if you don't understand the language, if you don't understand the illustrations, as Kate mentioned. There are a bunch of things that we can do to make experience more inclusive, not only accessible, but both. We need to think really both.
Chris Strahl: That's awesome. It's funny you mentioned the voice side of things, right? Because my five-year-old also loves to play with our Google Home. We actually switched over from Alexa to Google Home and he called Google Home Alexa for six months. But what he'll do is he'll actually change his speech patterns when he's trying to get Google to play the Ants Go Marching or Baby Shark or something like that. It's really funny because he's like, "Yeah, I have to speak like a grownup to get Google to understand me." I thought that was a really adorable thing that he said was he was like, "Yeah, I have to speak like a grownup. It's hard." He literally changes his intonation. He'll be like, "Hey, Google, play Ants Go Marching," and it works. He's able to figure it out, but through a substantial amount of trial and error and many, many times shouting across the kitchen at a smart speaker. But I thought that was a funny explanation because I definitely see that, not because of different languages, but because my five-year-old is still learning how to speak, and so it's interesting to see how that reflects.
Kate: I think that's an interesting tie-in too of what Cinita mentioned earlier about how any accessibility improvements you make helps everybody. If we make language kind of more simple, more clear, that helps Cinita who is not a native English speaker, that helps your five-year-old talk to Alexa, that helps me who struggles with ADHD and kind of understanding long strings of content, and it shows you the different levels of how accessible design really helps everybody.
Chris Strahl: Completely. I'd be remiss if we didn't talk about AI in this field a little bit. Thinking about this wonderful world of AI... I just got back from a conference in San Francisco where I spent a bunch of time talking about AI with a bunch of people that work at Google. Thinking about the future that is AI enabled, one of the things that I'm very hopeful about with AI technology is that it does give us this opportunity to present more accessible, more inclusive experiences and not in the sense of... Obviously, there are drawbacks here. The people that write the algorithms, those algorithms get written for them, those algorithms carry innate biases, et cetera, so I'm not trying to discount a lot of the problematic side of AI that is still emerging. But there are a lot of things that we can do with AI now that were a hard-to-do before that help us with the creation of more accessible experiences. Kate, you had a really interesting one before the show that I'd love if you shared that.
Kate: Yeah, Pinterest has a version of a hackathon that we call Makeathon. Just this week actually, some engineers had a really great idea that they reached out to me about doing the design side of things for using AI to auto generate captions and alt text. What they're doing is they're taking all of these kind of images and inputting them into the AI and seeing how it kind of generates the alt text for these images, and then we're going to work to try and figure out if that makes sense, if it's clear, if it's understandable, if that's how we would describe those images ourselves, and try and refine the AI to just be better at that overall and then present that as a hackathon project, which I think is really fun and a really cool way to tie in AI and accessibility.
Chris Strahl: Yeah, for certain, and if anything, you all deal with a lot of images, so that's probably going to have fairly high consequence of work.
Kate: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it's going to be huge.
Cinita: Yeah, we do have today the ability to add alt text on the pins, but a lot of users, they don't do that, they don't want to spend the time to go and add the alt text. This could definitely help if we can avoid bias.
Kate: Yeah. There's also interesting things around using AI to detect text and kind of pull that out so that low vision users or blind users can read what's in the image of a pin, which is not really possible today, which is also very exciting.
Chris Strahl: There's a lot of these things that seem like a really interesting way of experiencing content in ways that we haven't before, and whether that's automatic tagging or text generation or the ability to parse things in new and interesting ways. One of the things that we're actually working on with the podcast right now that we have this proof of concept out about is the ability to take all of our podcasts audio for the Design Systems podcast and be able to ask a question of one of the guests or me, the host, and have it search through the repository of, at this point, several hundred hours of podcast content and have it actually answer you in my voice or in the guest's voice. That always blows me away, it actually trips me out. We had one of our engineers make a sound clip using my voice the other day based on some of the podcast audio, and it is uncanny, but it's an interesting way of thinking about if I tell somebody that's a new employee of Knapsack or somebody that's interested in design systems, "Go listen to 60 plus episodes of the Design Systems podcast."
They're going to be like, "You're crazy." But if they have a specific question that they're interested in, the ability to say like, "Hey, what would Kate and Cinita think about accessibility?" Have it actually be able to respond conversationally in a 30-second clip of the both of you, I think it'd be really cool.
Kate: It's both wonderful and so creepy.
Cinita: Yeah, but actually this would be awesome. We have today, I think all the companies, they do have a Slack channel for answering design systems questions, and we have new designers all the time and they ask the same question that we answered two months ago, but it is sure the same answer. We tried bots, a [inaudible] bot to point to the chat, but it quite doesn't work that well. If you could have AI creating this personalized experience if people, they ask something, not only answer the question, but point to the right file, to the right library, because we have different libraries, we have iOS, Android, and web. How do we point different teams to different components and needs? How do we use AI to create automation for tools inside design systems? Maybe it's a plugin, we don't know.
But we do have some folks, managers and directors, they have been talking a lot about opportunities for us. How can we leverage from AI to create more personalized experience for our users? We have a lot of different folks, and we have new folks all the time coming to the design systems. We often have people confusing brand with design systems. This could be some very valuable way to direct folks to the right channels.
Chris Strahl: Yeah, and you mentioned personalization, which is something I'm really excited about. The idea in particular of a company like Pinterest where you're all about highlighting other content that isn't necessarily your content. How do people want to view that content? Do they have particularly good eyesight and so they like lots of small tiles? Do they have a need for more dense information or more text-based content instead of image-based content? The ability to surface and discover different things in a system based upon a user preference and to be able to personalize with AI sounds really interesting also.
Cinita: Yeah, I love that. We do have today people, they can search hair products by hair type, which is awesome. You can search makeup by the color of your skin. There are a bunch of things that we do today, trying to personalize the experience for our Pinners. With AI, we could go way beyond and make it much better, including accessibility as part of that.
Kate: Yeah. We've also been talking about AI in terms of writing documentation, because that's a huge part of Cinita and my every day is writing just pages and pages and pages of documentation. So is the life of a systems designer. But we've been talking on our team a little bit about training AI on how we specifically as the Gestalt team write documentation and seeing if we can get an output that is similar to how Cinita would write a page about buttons and hopefully automating something similar like that in the future, which would be a huge help.
Chris Strahl: Yeah, so it writes in the same style as you, and it sounds like you, et cetera. That'd be really interesting. We're experimenting with all this stuff inside of Knapsack right now where you can do two things; you can discover more content about your design system because all these design systems are fairly large knowledge management problems. If you think about a design system, it's like a novel length work or maybe even multiple novels and trying to understand... You don't ever say, "Turn to page 323 of your design system," you usually have a very specific question about how to use it. The AI being able to tell you how to actually use the design system in an interesting way and to discover that information is really powerful, I think.
Kate: Yeah, and the nuances.
Chris Strahl: Yeah, exactly, right? It's why you want to make sure you put your voice and tone guidelines and your vision and purpose for the design system inside of your documentation because that's all context, frankly, for robots to help provide you better answers. I also think about the idea, like you said, about content generation. One of the things that's always hard when you're creating a new pattern inside of something like Knapsack is what do I create in terms of that initial docs page? The ability for it to understand how you've created other docs pages, reference the code or design file that you're attaching to that portion of your system, and have it automatically suggest or generate some content for you so it's not just a blank page, that's so powerful as a starting point for all these things.
Kate: Design system work takes a lot of research. It's a lot of going and looking, "What's the best practice from Nielsen Norman? What are these engineers over in this forum talking about as far as how you should animate a button? What's going on over here? How's this system handling it?" To be able to have an aggregate for all of that information and that I don't have to spend an hour or so of my time going and looking at all of these resources would be a huge jumping off point too. That is if you can trust your AI, that it's not pulling false information and lying to you.
Chris Strahl: Not making shit up.
I love the idea of aggregating the meta though. There is all this meta work attached to the design system, it's not actually the creation of the content for you, but it's background that you need to be able to actually create that content. The idea of how do you aggregate the meta, that's a cool idea.
Cinita: Yeah, and one thing we could also benefit from this generation of content, not only on the design systems, but for the creators. If you're a creator on Pinterest, you can create pins, showcase your work, try to get followers, and inspire the folks and you don't have... "Okay, what am I going to write on this pin?" You could benefit from content generation to help you create content to upload on Pinterest. There are a lot of opportunities on the UI, not only on the design system side, but on the product. How do we help Pinners, especially considering some folks, they have mobility issues, they can't write too much becauses they could feel pain or they have a certain type of disability? If you could have a tool to help you to upload content to Pinterest, it would be amazing.
Chris Strahl: This has been such an awesome conversation. Thank you both so much for coming on the program and talking about this. If there's anything you could leave our listeners with to kind of say, "What do you need to remember? What do you need to know about this stuff to make sure that you bring this practice to your organization?" What would that be?
Kate: I think the biggest thing is continued education, especially if you're interested in accessibility, get your hands dirty with screen readers, and feel uncomfortable using a screen reader because that's what helps you grow. But also, I know Cinita and I have taken the initiative on our own, whether we have educational funding or not, to take accessibility courses and get certification. We both want to take an international certification this year, which is going to be really fun to do together. But, always keep growing, look to folks who are affected by inaccessibility, people who don't have the same access to these products, and ask them questions and learn from them. Cinita, do you have any thoughts?
Cinita: Yeah, I think you said it pretty well. Try to find who you should follow maybe on LinkedIn, go and do networking, meet people who are also passionate about accessibility. We can learn a lot from each other. Talk to people who have disabilities, you're going to learn things that you don't know. We always learn new things every day. Go to Gestalt, I'm going to do a little promotional about design systems here because we created a very cool page on the foundations that we talk about accessibility, we share some checklists for designers and engineers, what are the considerations that you need to have in mind when you're creating a design, we have inclusive design links for you. There are a bunch of things there so you can benefit from it.
Kate: We're an open source system, so get in there, check it out.
Chris Strahl: Contribute.
Kate: Send us questions on LinkedIn.
Chris Strahl: Awesome. Well, thank you both so much for being on. I really appreciate it. This has been the Design Systems podcast. I'm Chris Strahl. Have a great day, everybody.
That's all for today. This has been another episode of the Design Systems podcast. Thanks for listening. If you have any questions or a topic you'd like to know more about, find us on Twitter @TheDSPod. We'd love to hear from you with show ideas, recommendations, questions, or comments. As always, this pod is brought to you by Knapsack. You can check us out at knapsack.cloud. Have a great day.