Atlassian Design System2012–2015

Design system, guidelines, and tools to standardize 12 Atlassian products

Overview

When I started at Atlassian there were 44 different dropdown menu styles in our products. The design aesthetic, interaction patterns and usability was incredibly fragmented across all ten products. After 6 months on the team I started working on creating a design system to overhaul the whole Atlassian suite. It would become the proudest accomplishment of my career to date, and the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on.

Visit design.atlassian.com to see the whole system.


I worked with a handful of talented Atlassian designers to overhaul the Atlassian UI and write the guidelines for how and when to use different patterns. The system had to work within the existing Atlassian suite of products but also be a platform for evolution. As a team we released several versions of these guidelines and treated it like it was our own product, performing sprints, standups, etc to keep to a 6 week shipping cadence.

I designed and built the majority of the site that contains the guidelines. The code is a little sketchy in places but it all works pretty well. Lots of team members helped out to make this possible. Here’s the commit leaderboard at the time I left Atlassian.

Changes to Atlassian products

Over the course of a year, a lot of design changes were made to the whole product suite, including the brand. Below are a couple of the main screens and logo changes.

Old designs

New designs

Leading from the front

In addition to leading this initiative, I wrote internal and external blog posts when we were shipping new sections of the system, mentored new designs coming onto the team, gave onboarding talks for new hires and graduates, etc. I was lucky enough to give talks at conferences about our process and how the Design Guidelines had transformed the way engineers and designers now worked at Atlassian—shipping faster, more harmonious experiences.


The outcome of all this work is on design.atlassian.com. The design team is around 150 people today (I was the fifth designer on the team back in 2011) and this tool has helped the team scale to that size. My involvement towards the end of my tenure was in a mentor and guidance capacity to help the team grow, continually evolve, and improve design at Atlassian.