Expressive Design Systems

Coming soon, from A Book Apart


“Do design systems stifle creativity?”

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard about the many benefits of creating a design system: faster builds, more cohesive products, improved maintenance and scalability. Along with these benefits come some frustrations: rigid systems that stifle creativity, overly specific systems that can’t be adapted to enough use cases, complicated systems that lead to fragmented user experiences.

I’ve seen how design systems can constrain. But I’ve also seen how design systems can allow brands to feel unified, cohesive, and harmonious while also leaving room for experimentation. That’s an expressive design system.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with companies to turn their brand ethos into a design language— and then worked to scale that language with a design system. I’ve helped brands like The Verge, Eater, and Vox feel distinct on a unified platform. Now, I’m leading the Polaris design system team at Shopify, where UX teams create products across platforms, contexts, and environments.

That’s why I’m so excited to share that I’ve written a book for A Book Apart! It’s called Expressive Design Systems and it will help you and your teams create purposeful design systems that enable creativity and brand expression.

What’s inside?

Chapter 1. Purpose and Principles: we’ll discuss how to set a purpose statement for a design system that will guide your work. Then we’ll look at how to establish principles that will align teams as they make design decisions.

Chapter 2. The Process Behind the System: we’ll look at the process behind the system. How can you get a better understanding of your organization so you can make the most impact with a design system?

Chapter 3. Communicating Your Brand: focuses on how to communicate your brand through a system. We’ll look at how to define your design language so that your brand’s voice feels harmonious throughout your products.

Chapter 4. Making Room for Variation: is about how to build in opportunities for variation. A huge part of creating an expressive design system is knowing when to allow for flexibility and experimentation. We’ll discuss some frameworks you can use to decide when, where, and how to allow for variation.

Chapter 5. Managing Design Systems: reflects on managing design systems. In order to keep our design systems purposeful and expressive, we need to evolve them from real-world use cases. We’ll discuss how clear governance and contribution models will keep our systems alive.

What people are saying…

Throughout her career, Yesenia Perez-Cruz has helped countless teams plan, design, and integrate truly impressive—and expressive—design systems into their products. It’s no surprise that her book is a delightfully comprehensive guide, helping ensure you and your team can do the same.
Ethan Marcotte
Author of Responsive Web Design

I found myself instinctively nodding my head as I read through Expressive Design Systems. Yesenia Perez-Cruz has unlocked new ways of thinking about systems that have resonated deeply with me. Don’t be mistaken; this book is not just theory. It is loaded with practical examples and best practices that will help guide your team toward a cohesive system.
Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain
Principal Designer at Shopify

This is a must-read for anyone starting a design system or already working on an established system. From principles to process, this book will strengthen the ways in which teams build products, resulting in harmonious, branded experiences that users love.
Alex Skougarevskaya
Design System Manager at Atlassian