Design Systems London Goes Online

Design Systems London (formerly Digital Product London) is a non-profit community aimed to create a platform for every enthusiast to share experiences, ideas and approaches on Design Systems.

Driven and powered by YLD, it gathers top digital product minds to explore, explain and discuss challenging concepts, from product design to engineering culture. Although its main focus is on and around Design Systems, other product topics are welcomed too. Hosting its first online meetup, this article will dive into the history of the DSL community and walk us through the highlights of the meetup evening.

The Story

Initially created in 2017, the story goes back to the launch of Digital Product London — a series of meetup events that featured some of the top industry minds in a wide-rage of talks. During these gatherings, both speakers and attendees were encouraged to share thoughts and learnings from the intersection between engineering, design and product strategy. Later on, the idea to create a more Design Systems focused community came from a very inspiring talk — “Design Systems: Zero to One” given by Siddharth Kshetrapal during ReactFest, another one of the YLD’s community conferences. As an outcome of that, Design Systems London was born and later merged with Digital Product London.

Received with enormous excitement, our team at YLD went ahead with two fantastic DSL conferences in 2018 and 2019, as well as a quite remarkable NYC meetup edition. DSL has thus become a community dear to our hearts.

Like many others, due to the ongoing pandemic, we took a bit of a break before adapting and moving meetups online. With its first virtual edition wrapped up in December 2021, our DSL team is committed to continue offering online editions in parallel with in-person events once the latter is possible.

Meetup in Review

The first DSL online meetup, hosted by our Head of Product Luis Klesfjö, returned in full force with an eclectic and broad-ranging line-up of speakers. It included James Hevey (our very own Product Designer at YLD), Emily Swift (Product Designer, Zego), Benny Zuffolini (Director of Product Design, Pearson), Ellis Capon (Product Manager, News UK) and Marta Vasconcelos (Software Engineer, SingleStore).

Featuring four inspiring talks and riveting discussions on this great topic, the event was attended by people from all corners of the world: France, Slovenia, Singapore, Portugal, UK, India, USA, Ukraine, Sweden, Greece, New Zealand, and many others.

The talks

1 — ‘You don’t need to solve problems twice — you need a design system’ with Marta Vasconcelos

The event kicked off with Marta shedding light on the whys of a Design System. From presenting the plethora of its definitions to introducing some of the tools and processes to take the most out of it, the talk looked at the topic from a broader perspective. Among the perks of using a Design System, Marta highlighted the prospect of just having to solve problems once. If you, for instance, implement your solution in just one place you will avoid code duplication, creating consistent and seamless components. As to the process of creating a Design System, Marta made a strong point on the importance of allocating time and resources. If it sparks your interest, watch the full recording of Marta’s talk here.

2 — ‘How our industry went from “what’s a Design System” to “Oh yeah we have a few of those”’ with Benny Zuffolini

The second speaker of the evening was Benny who shared her vast knowledge working with Design Systems throughout the last few years. The story took us back to 2017 when Benny was working at Vonage, a company she and her team built a DS for. It was a fairly successful story that Benny eagerly shared with us during the DSL x NYC Meetup in 2019. Comparing Design Systems in 2017 and now, what followed was a conversation on the things Benny believes went right and wrong. Additionally, the talk went on to stress the importance of critical and strategic thinking as well as the need to set up the right expectations: “What is it that we want to achieve?”, “What are we optimising for?”, “What problems are we trying to solve?”. This write-up touches only on some key points of the talk, so make sure you watch its full recording here.

3 — ‘Evolution of Design Systems KPIs’ with Ellis Capon

Third on our digital stage was Ellis who talked us through the evolution of the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for the NewsKit design system over the last few years. The talk kicked off with a brief explanation on NewsKit and the initial mission set to it. Ellis then led the talk on KPIs and why Design Systems can benefit from utilising them. Occupying quite an unusual yet intricate role, Ellis provided some incredible insights taken from the feet-on-the-ground experience working as a Product Manager of a Design System. Two years into the project, Ellis went on to discuss their work from the start of the project up until this year, reflecting later on the things they aspire to achieve moving forward. If you are eager to know more make sure you watch Ellis talk here and dig into his blog article following this link.

4 — ‘Design Systems: From Consultant to Client’ with James Hevey and Emily Swift

Our last talk of the evening featured James and Emily who delved into their shared experience of handing over a Design System from a consultant-to-client perspective. Back in May 2021, Zego partnered with YLD to consolidate product ideas into a cohesive North Star vision that teams could align with. A Design System would be a key element to guarantee that the process is done effectively and at speed, allowing not only to focus on improving current customer journeys, but also to experiment and to test more efficiently. During the presentation, James and Emily talked us through the objectives and expectations of both YLD and Zego, followed by the conversation on the hand off process itself. We all know that handover can be a tough challenge, and it comes as no surprise that it is even more of an intricate process when a Design System is involved. The talk covered very important moments, including initial concerns and reservations followed by insights on how those were addressed. Find this and more by watching the full recording of the session here.

Q&A session

The closing part of the meetup was a joint Q&A session with all our speakers answering questions from the audience, in regards to their presentations and also about Design Systems in general. Make sure to watch or rewatch the livestream recording here.


All in all, it was a great meetup but we would be nothing without the community! We would like to thank not only our speakers but also everyone from across the globe who tuned in late at night from Singapore or early in the morning from New Zealand to be part of the conversation, ask and answer questions related to Design Systems.

It was such a joy to have everyone coming together again and for us to welcome new members to our DSL community, but we were also very excited to find some familiar faces on the livestream chat: Shaun Bent, a previous DSL Conference speaker, and Jina Anne, a previous speaker and conference host, among other DS enthusiasts near and dear to our hearts.

The feedback we received from the community was yet another highlight of our evening — it’s exactly what moves us to go on creating more events like this one!

DSL will be back in 2022 and if you are interested in becoming one of our speakers please fill in this form with your proposed topic and contact details — we welcome first-timers as well as more seasoned speakers, so make sure to give it a go!

Follow DSL on Twitter and join us on Meetup to keep up with the news.

We at YLD are always eager to expand our team so if you are looking to work at a dynamic, fast-growing and aspiring company check out our open positions or send our talent team an email!

Links and suggestions

Jina Anne — “Design Systems and Creativity” at Design Systems London 2018 Conference

All talks from Design Systems London 2018 Conference

Benny Zuffolini and Matteo Zuffolini — “Design Systems at Vonage” at Design Systems London x NYC Meetup, NYC

All talks from DSL x NYC meetup

Shaun Bent — “Reimagining Design Systems at Spotify” at Design Systems London 2019 Conference

James Hevey and James Zhao — “Design Systems: Before You Begin” at Design Systems London 2019 Conference

All talks from Design Systems London 2019 Conference

Design Systems London Goes Online was originally published in YLD Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Written by YLDJanuary 18th, 2022

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