Interview with Viljami Salminen

I was recently interviewed by Lovers Magazine about what led me into design and what type of things inspire me as a designer. I think it was refreshing to answer their questions and really dive into the deep end of what ultimately took me where I am today.

I sometimes tend to forget that I’ve been working in this profession for two decades and many of the people I meet inside and outside of work are just starting their careers. I’m not really saying that I’d be offering any kind of career advice in this particular interview, but it’s still a brief look into one person’s journey to become a systems oriented designer.

If you’re interested, you can read the full interview here. I also created a small Spotify playlist for the readers of the magazine. These are tracks that I often listen to while working. There’s an Apple Music playlist available as well.

Photograph of Viljami SalminenPhotograph of Viljami Salminen

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Launching Nord Design System

We’re excited to announce the first major release of Nord Design System, v1.0. With this release, our design systems team is shipping a number of new tools and features to improve the experience of designing, building, and shipping products at Nordhealth.

Looking back in time, we started our design systems journey at the end of 2020 with initial user research, but the concrete design and development work on the system didn’t start before the late summer 2021 when Eric Habich, Nick Williams, and David Darnes joined the team.

Now, 8 months later, I’m excited that we’re launching Nord Design System and all of our tools for production usage! To learn more about the new features included, keep reading below.  🎉

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A Missed

Why does it feel like the devices we use are getting slower over time? A smartphone I bought a few years ago seems to be losing its edge when browsing websites. My computer struggles to play audio. Even my car’s interface can’t keep up anymore after all the updates. Am I just imagining or were they always like this?

No, these devices aren’t actually getting slower, it’s the software that is getting more bloated. Whenever new hardware is released out in the wild, it takes only a few months until it becomes the benchmark for software developers. Because hell, why not. We have all these resources to utilize, why wouldn’t we. Why give a fuck about the needs of users.

If you’ve observed this too, it’s not just your imagination. Software is becoming increasingly complex and requires more resources than ever before. As CPU power increases, software is expanded to consume that extra performance. We live in the era of disposability.

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CodePen as a Component Editor

When we started working on Duet Design System early last year, one of our goals was to create similar component playgrounds as I had previously built for Vue Design System. While this seemed like an obvious decision at first, we soon realized that maintaining a code editor of our own required far too much effort, especially since Duet’s documentation is a custom built platform created for a specific organization’s needs.

We figured there must be a simpler approach. Maybe all of it didn’t have to be a part of the documentation itself. The most important goal was to have a code playground which would enable quick prototyping and testing.

This got us thinking. We were already using CodePen when we needed to quickly prototype or design something in the browser. Could we utilize the same tool for the public website as well to make the component documentation more interactive?

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Why We Use Web Components

It’s August, 2018. I’m at the office, sitting by the window staring rain pouring down from the sky. A warm cup of tea in my hand, about to sip it, but the phone suddenly rings. I don’t recognize the number. I hesitate for a moment whether to pick it up or not. Maybe it’s again a telemarketer trying to sell me something?

Thinking of this particular autumn evening today, a year and a half later, I’m delighted I picked up the phone. This one phone call ended up having a major impact, as the end result was the biggest personal project I have worked on so far.

While I used to work with bigger clients and projects when we lived in United States, this felt different. I personally sold the project and were responsible for most of the things from initial research all the way to the design system’s overall architecture.

A few months went by after our first call. I went to see the client during a couple of occasions to plan the possible collaboration. After some back and forth negotiation we ultimately started working together in the beginning of January, 2019.

And so Duet Design System was born.

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Design System Won’t Fix Your Problems

Ever read an article praising design systems and how they magically solve design and frontend challenges? I’ve sure seen this being repeated in one form or another. Maybe not with these exact exaggerated words, but the underlying message has been close. While there might be a spark of truth there somewhere, it can be quite misleading to make this kind of statements without explaining what’s really required.

You might’ve seen or been on the other side as well, where organizations invest large sums of money to hire external agencies to create design systems for them. These agencies often work completely detached in their own silos and only claim to blend into the client’s organization. While this is a good business model for the agencies selling and creating these systems, it rarely works out for the client organization.

Real life example of this behaviour: a manager at Organization Y hears about design systems and how they solved the challenges of Organization X. They want to get on the bandwagon as well. Agency Z sees this as a money making opportunity and sells them a team of designers and developers who will design and build the system for Organization Y. The starting price is over one million US dollars.

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Vue Design System

Vue Design System is a set of organized tools, patterns, and practices that work as the foundation for Vue.js application development. What initially started as a quick-n-dirty prototyping tool for a client of mine, has grown into a fully capable systems tool that provides an environment where the pattern library and live application can be perfectly in sync.

For me personally, Vue Design System has become as much of a design systems teaching and learning platform, as it is a tool that’s capable of growing from a prototype to a fully fleshed-out system that multiple applications can depend on.

In this article, I will shed some light to the processes and workflow I use to get started with a new design system project. An article, I would’ve wanted to come across when first starting with design systems and trying to figure out the best approaches. While I’ve written this from Vue Design System’s perspective, the concepts and processes I introduce here will work with any tool.

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