Content strategy meets design system

Feb 10 was a joint meet-up between Sydney Content Strategy and the Design Systems meetups. The speakers were:

  • Tony Starr, Content Design Manager for the Atlassian Cloud Platform and Product Content Standards;
  • Steven Berends, formally at the DTA and currently founder of Bear Lion Bird and on assignment at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission.

Both speakers outlined projects and the underlying principles where content has evolved alongside and within design systems. Anthony Starr titled his talk “Strive for 73% content in your design system”. This was not about content playing second fiddle and both talks showed that mature product and service design teams are merging design systems and content strategy.

So what’s in a system?

  • Pattern libraries and style guides but keep these short, usable, and readable
  • Style and grammar: voice and tone, mechanics, glossaries
  • Resources for writing user-facing documentation, emails, in product help, and other content
  • Examples of best practice

The problem that content strategy and content design systems are solving for:

  • The friction caused by inconsistency across ecosystem of websites and services
  • Creating consistency throughout the user journey
  • Capturing institutional knowledge

As always

  • Start with user needs, meet the user story


  • Identify indicators as well as measures – e.g. 0 searches on pages can infer unmet needs


  • Consider a content style council to manage decisions. The metaphor of a tree was used to show this system of decisions
  • Root decisions
    • Terminology
    • Voice and tone
    • Brand guidelines
    • Messaging (think microcopy of interactions)
    • Organisational styles
  • Trunk decisions
    • Glossary
    • Product terminology
    • In-product experiences
    • ‘Spicy’ style and grammar choices
  • Branch decisions
    • Content patterns
  • Leaf decisions:
    • Product guidelines
    • Standards and style choices

Form communities of practice, be visible to embed use:

  • Team up with Brand to increase ‘capacity through the system’
  • Allow uniqueness, and
    • incorporate new patterns into the system
    • also ask that people document why they have created a new pattern
  • Keep agile practice, interaction design, and developers close
  • Socialise wherever and whenever possible. Examples included:
    • Through project delivery
    • laying the groundwork with stakeholders
    • being visible in Slack/social channels
    • speaking at in house events
    • attending team and project brainstorm sessions
    • considering a service design to support the design and content system

Thanks as always to Elle Geraghty for organising an amazing free community event. For more info on future meetups by these organisers go to: and

If you want to learn more another write-up of the meetup was captured by Mattia Fregola at and a video of one of the talks is available at

  • Sydney content strategy and design system meetup welcome slide





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