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Act III: The Design System and the 6 product teams

Thrivent hasn’t had a design system before. We were barely staffed, but had to find a way to support a re-org that created 6 product teams.


March 2022
2 Designers

November 2022
3 Designers

March 2023
3 Designers, PO, EM, 1 Lead Engineer, 2 Contract Engineers, a11y tester

Thrivent has never had a real design system. There were various attempts with style guides and figma libraries from different contractors, consultancies, and departments throughout the years...

It’s early 2022, all the engineering resources are going to different teams but no one is staffing ours. It’s a typical story.

Our direction? Build as much as we need to support the designers—we have control of that.

May 2022 November 2022
A re-org happened. 6 product teams spun up and staffed with designers. Our design system exists in the form of the UI library. Designers have what they need.

Team 1 


Team 2

Connect with an advisor

Team 3


Team 4

Account Creation

Team 5


Team 6 


Connect with an Advisor
Account Creation

New team, who dis?

Houston, we have a problem

Unsurprisingly, without a dedicated engineering practice, engineers were recreating the components on their own in their own separate libraries. Our only way of pushing changes was waterfalling through the teams.

It went unnoticed until one engineer started causing problems for the other—I had to raise the flag to one of the engineering directors.

Mind you, I didn’t even have a director as this time.

We finally got attention

It took a lot of convincing, but I thankfully had advocates at the director level from other teams, who pressured leadership to staff my team. So we grew from a team of 3 designers to a team of 9 people.

People are still shared resources, but it’s a start.

Finally, a real design system

One of my biggest frustrations was perpetually explaining to a people that a design system is more than just a Figma UI kit. We finally have code that reflects our work and is tightly integrated with design tokens.

Tokens, tokens, tokens!

If you want the design system to scale and be maintainable, you need a well architected tokens system. Things must be named dilligently, and pipelines need to be built. If you don’t do this right, apps will drift apart with design decisions like color and typography.
But first, you’ve got to demonstrate why they’re valuable.

A design system is so much more than its assets and libraries. Communication and feedback loops must be built. At the end of the day, our users are our designers and developers... if their needs aren’t being met, what are we really doing?