Brad Frost just published his marvelous book Atomic Design, and it’s the most valuable resource I know for going beyond the design of discrete pages to build entire design systems. The book covers the gamut from nitty-gritty technique to collaborative process to organizational management. Buy it here.
I’m especially honored that Brad asked me to pen the foreword with our friend and frequent collaborator Dan Mall. Here’s what we wrote about Brad and Atomic Design:
It was 2013, and we huddled with Brad Frost and Jennifer Brook around a sunlit kitchen table in Brooklyn. The four of us had just begun work on a new website for TechCrunch, and we were sketching wireframes in Jennifer’s apartment, wrestling with the new demands of responsive design. Brad pulled out his laptop: “I’ve been playing with a new idea.”
Brad’s screen looked like a webpage had exploded. Bits and pieces of UI floated free of each other, untethered by a unified design or hierarchy. It looked like a pile of spare parts from a web garage.
Brad flashed his crazy grin and nodded, “Great, right?” The three of us stared back blankly. Somebody coughed.
And then Brad Frost the front-end developer started talking like Brad Frost the chemist. He talked about atoms and molecules and organisms—about how large pieces of design can be broken down into smaller ones and even recombined into different large pieces. Instead of visualizing the finished recipe for the design, in other words, he was showing us the ingredients. And we lit up: this was a shift in perspective, a way to move away from conceiving a website design as a collection of static page templates, and instead as a dynamic system of adaptable components. It was an inspired way to approach this responsive website—and all responsive projects for that matter.
Brad’s new idea was atomic design, and it changed the way we work in this astonishingly multi-device world. By thinking about interfaces simultaneously at both the large (page) level as well as the small (atomic) level, we streamlined our process: we introduced more rigorous thought into the role of every element; we fell into habits that improved the consistency of our UX; and crucially, we started working much faster and more collaboratively. Atomic design was our superpower.
In early stages of the TechCrunch redesign, there was this moment where we talked about what we wanted the article page to be. Within an hour, Brad had a fully responsive version wired up from his kit of parts. That was the moment we realized just how quickly we were going to be able move, a powerful case for investing in this clever, modular approach.
Almost four years later, we haven’t looked back. Brad continued to refine his techniques and tools over the projects that followed, including blockbuster sites for Entertainment Weekly and Time, Inc. We’ve used these learnings to help in-house product teams make sites faster and with higher quality, build massive design systems for organizations looking to centralize their design and development work across international offices, and much more.
Atomic design gave us speed, creative freedom, and flexibility. It changed everything. We think it will do the same for you, too.
This wonderful book explains the philosophy, practice, and maintenance of atomic design systems. And it does so with the cheerful, helpful generosity that so describes Brad himself.
Brad’s energy and big-hearted enthusiasm for the web and its makers are boundless. For years, Brad has worked at the forefront of responsive-design technique—and he’s shared everything along the way. His This Is Responsive site is the go-to resource for finding responsive solutions to any UX problem. His blog and Twitter feeds share his roadblocks and his solutions. When designers and developers follow Brad Frost, they get a fast and dense stream of practical, passionate insight for building beautiful and resilient websites. This book doubles down on all of that.
Given the chance, Brad would knock on the door of every designer and developer to personally deliver his message. We’ve watched with astonishment (and mild envy) as this whirling dervish has barnstormed around the globe to share his advice with hundreds of teams and organizations across six continents. (Atomic design, coming soon to Antarctica!) But even Brad Frost can’t be everywhere at once, and we’re delighted that he’s detailed his ideas with such depth and good humor in this book.
Atomic design is blowing up around the world; it transformed our design practice; and we’re excited for it to bring the same creative combustion to your process, too.
—Josh Clark and Dan Mall, Brad’s frequent collaborators and his biggest fans