Designing a Design System for Coherent Tactical GUIs

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Master's Thesis
Interaction design and technologies (MPIDE), MSc
Today, the problem of incoherence exists within many organizations where separate teams oversee different products and services without utilizing central design principles or communication platforms. With increased scale and complexity, this problem tends to escalate to the point where resources can not be shared or reused across teams, limiting collaboration and symbiosis within the organization. Additionally, as different projects develop their own proprietary design language, the resulting applications tend to become incoherent and disassociate from the brand. Front-end developers working in the domain of tactical applications constantly have to make difficult design decisions in their respective customer projects while trying to manage a balance between coherence and responsiveness to specific customer requirements. Additionally, thousands of hours have already been invested into each application and project. If design decisions are not kept documented and accessible by the whole organization, valuable knowledge and solutions easily get lost between teams and projects. As a consequence, resources are spent on reinventing new solutions to old problems resulting in incoherence between applications. Research suggests that one way of increasing communication and resource sharing between teams while simultaneously managing the balance between coherence and responsiveness is to design and utilize a design system. As most contemporary design systems and previous research has been focused on web development, this master’s thesis aimed to investigate this research gap and extend the body of knowledge of design systems into the domain of tactical graphical user interfaces (GUIs). This was done by addressing the research question What are important requirements to consider when designing a design system for coherent tactical GUIs?. The project followed an iterative design thinking process, using both ethnographic and participatory research methodologies, to research the field of tactical GUIs - specifically Airborne Early Warning & Control systems at Saab Surveillance in Gothenburg. This was combined with extensive literature studies and benchmarks of established design systems in order to understand best practices for designing design systems. The outcome of the project is a requirements list that answers the research question. The list includes the most important requirements to consider when designing a design system for coherent tactical GUIs in terms of using, contributing, and minimizing the trade-off between coherence and responsiveness. The requirements and the insights gained from the design research has been used to prototype a foundation for a design system for Saab. The resulting design system, called PhoeniX Design System, is built on the FlatLaf Look & Feel and includes design tokens, components, and patterns that supports developers of AEW&C applications in building coherent, yet responsive, tactical GUIs. Finally, a reference product was prototyped to exemplify the use of the design system.
tactical, GUI, UX, AEW&C, design system, style guide, pattern library, components, coherence, responsiveness
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