Object-Orient Your Design System

Sophia V Prater
5 min readApr 27, 2020
5 bottles squirt 5 liquids. O.O.U.X. = design of substance. Figure this out first. Design Systems = design of packaging.
OOUX = Design of the substance. <<Figure this out first.

There’s no doubt Design Systems are in vogue. There are talks about them, there are articles being written about them. Companies are assembling dream teams dedicated to them. There are even full-day, virtual conferences that revolve around them — like Sparkbox’s fantastic UnConference, which inspired this article. Design Systems are so hot right now, up there with N95 masks and rolled paper products. And it’s no wonder why: an on-brand style guide and a comprehensive pattern library can revolutionize the way digital products are made, saving time, money and that most precious resource, creative energy. But is something missing?

Design systems are fantastic, but if they aren’t based on anything deeper than surface-level implementation (aesthetics and UI), aren’t they a bit like Hobbes without Calvin? Like Jelly without Peanut Butter?!

OOUX and Design Systems, a match made in design heaven

That’s right, Object-Oriented UX should be an organizing principle for your Design System. By linking styles to real-world objects, OOUX informs the organization of your design system. OOUX enables you to ask, “what are the styles for this OBJECT — and how do we keep it consistent across our app, our website, our entire multi-platform universe?”

In the UX Hustle Podcast episode 14, “Building Design Systems and Systems for Building Designers with Ben Callahan,” Ben said, a design system is, “like a language for your design.” I love that analogy, because, like a design system, a language can communicate culture, a language has rules for how it can be used (grammar), and language provides the raw materials for bringing our ideas out of our minds and into the material world. The funny thing about languages, is that, at their most basic level, they’re all based on objects. Nouns to be precise. As I’ve pointed out in many of my talks, when a baby learns her first words, she learns nouns. “Da-da,” “Ma-ma,” “Ball,” “Dog,” etc. When a non-native speaker learns a foreign language, how do they communicate in the very beginning? Survey says: with loads of nouns and just a handful of key verbs.

OOUX provides a framework and a methodology for identifying the objects in your design and a good design system provides the language for how those objects should…

Sophia V Prater

UX designer, OOUX Instructor, and Chief Evangelist for Object-Oriented UX | Download the OOUX Launch Guide! OOUX.com/resources/launchguide