Details versus overview?
So Brad Frost blogged about the idea of ‘atomic design' last summer, where websites are conceived of as systems of components and the designer's task starts with the smallest components (atoms) and designing outwards. And seeing as I'm used to encountering a number of consistency issues on large-scale sites, this really does seem to make sense. Or does it?
I’ve been developing a style guide piece by piece for a client this last week, where I have been looking at what Brad Frost might refer to as ‘atoms’ and ‘molecules’. Only the issue is, my client wants to implement pieces of it as fast as I can define them … and that’s already leading to some consistency issues. The designer in me needs to take a step back, to look at the bigger picture, to see how well various elements are working alongside each other, not just in isolation.
Both the detail work and the bigger picture are equally important. Time is unfortunately against me on this project so there’s not much opportunity to step back and really take in the bigger picture before sending modules on their way and seeing them materialise in code. But this is exactly why iteration will be important. I’m sending through the work with the caveat that I might want to change smaller or larger parts of the elements before I’m really happy with the overall picture. The style guide is like a kind of end-point, and there’s going to be a lot of creating and recreating to be done along the way.