First, Andy Clarke said web style guides should be more stylish. Then Jeremy Keith said beauty is in the eye of the beholder; the design and style should suit the audience.

Now Brad Frost adds to the exchange by suggesting that there may be more than one audience for a design system’s style guide. If establishing consensus is a key goal of a design system (and it should be), then its style guide should welcome a big, broad group:

A style guide has the opportunity to serve as a watering hole for the entire organization, helping establish a common vocabulary for every discipline invested in the success of the company’s digital products. Establishing this common vocabulary can lead to more efficient work, better communication, and more collaboration between disciplines across the organization. That’s why the style guide should be an inviting place for everybody, not just [core] design system users.

Amen. As the front door to the design system, this reference site should be at once approachable, practical, and yeah, even a little inspiring for the whole organization. That can happen over time; get it out there, refine it, and help your organization to shape it to its disparate needs.

That’s a pretty good triangulation among the three points of views here. The one thing I’d also add: style guides are ideally built out of their own components, guidelines, and design principles. They should be not only a container for the design system, but a living demonstration of it. It should be exactly as stylish as the underlying system.

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