Building a Visual Language- Behind the Scenes of Airbnb’s New Design system

Working in software development and design, we are often required to ship one-off solutions. Sometimes we’re working within time constraints and sometimes we just haven’t yet agreed upon a path forward. These one-off solutions aren’t inherently bad, but if they aren’t built upon a solid foundation, we eventually find ourselves having to pay back accrued technical and design debts.

Visual language is like any other language. Misunderstandings arise if the language is not shared and understood by everyone using it. As a product or team grows, the challenges within these modalities compound. A unified design system is essential to building better and faster; better because a cohesive experience is more easily understood by our users, and faster because it gives us a common language to work with.

While this was a monumental task that ended up requiring efforts from many of our product teams, we found that creating our Design Language System was worth the investment and a huge leap forward. Since the design language and code are often shared, we can now build and release features on all native platforms at roughly the same time. Development is generally faster, since product engineers can focus more on writing the feature logic rather than the view code. Additionally, engineers and designers now share a common language.

Building a Visual Language : Behind the scenes of our new design system