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Levi Clark
Levi Clark

Atomic Design


We're tasked with making interfaces for more users in more contexts using more browsers on more devices with more screen sizes and more capabilities than ever before. That's a daunting task indeed. Thankfully, design systems are here to help.




Atomic Design



Atomic Design details all that goes into creating and maintaining robust design systems, allowing you to roll out higher quality, more consistent UIs faster than ever before. This book introduces a methodology for thinking of our UIs as thoughtful hierarchies, discusses the qualities of effective pattern libraries, and showcases techniques to transform your team's design and development workflow.


In searching for inspiration and parallels, I kept coming back to chemistry. The thought is that all matter (whether solid, liquid, gas, simple, complex, etc) is comprised of atoms. Those atomic units bond together to form molecules, which in turn combine into more complex organisms to ultimately create all matter in our universe.


Things start getting more interesting and tangible when we start combining atoms together. Molecules are groups of atoms bonded together and are the smallest fundamental units of a compound. These molecules take on their own properties and serve as the backbone of our design systems.


Templates are very concrete and provide context to all these relatively abstract molecules and organisms. Templates are also where clients start seeing the final design in place. In my experience working with this methodology, templates begin their life as HTML wireframes, but over time increase fidelity to ultimately become the final deliverable. Bearded Studio in Pittsburgh follow a similar process, where designs start grayscale and layout-less but slowly increase fidelity until the final design is in place.


Atomic design provides a clear methodology for crafting design systems. Clients and team members are able to better appreciate the concept of design systems by actually seeing the steps laid out in front of them.


The second and far more challenging was working on a massive CMS overhaul at the ABC. We not only locked down all content as components but these content components were maintained in the DOM, further freeing up the the front end design to appear bespoke when they were all nicely packaged up to fit specific templates.


Chemical reactions are represented by chemical equations, which often show how atomic elements combine together to form molecules. In the example above, we see how hydrogen and oxygen combine together to form water molecules.


Atomic design is a methodology composed of five distinct stages working together to create interface design systems in a more deliberate and hierarchical manner. The five stages of atomic design are:


Building up from molecules to more elaborate organisms provides designers and developers with an important sense of context. Organisms demonstrate those smaller, simpler components in action and serve as distinct patterns that can be used again and again. The product grid organism can be employed anywhere a group of products needs to be displayed, from category listings to search results to related products.


Pages also provide a place to articulate variations in templates, which is crucial for establishing robust and reliant design systems. Here are just a few examples of template variations:


In all of these examples, the underlying templates are the same, but the user interfaces change to reflect the dynamic nature of the content. These variations directly influence how the underlying molecules, organisms, and templates are constructed. Therefore, creating pages that account for these variations helps us create more resilient design systems.


One of the biggest advantages atomic design provides is the ability to quickly shift between abstract and concrete. We can simultaneously see our interfaces broken down to their atomic elements and also see how those elements combine together to form our final experiences.


Atomic design gives us a language for discussing the structure of our UI patterns and also the content that goes inside those patterns. While there is a clean separation between the content structure skeleton (templates) and the final content (pages), atomic design recognizes the two very much influence each other. For instance, take the following example:


I show this non-web example because atomic design tends to get misinterpreted as an approach to web-specific technologies like CSS and JavaScript. Let me be clear about this: atomic design has nothing to do with web-specific subjects like CSS or JavaScript architecture. In chapter 1 we discussed the trend toward modularity in all aspects of design and development, which includes CSS and JavaScript. These are fantastic trends in CSS and JavaScript, but atomic design deals with crafting user interface design systems irrespective of the technology used to create them.


This chapter introduced the atomic design methodology and demonstrated how atoms, molecules, organisms, templates, and pages all work together to craft thoughtful, deliberate interface design systems. Atomic design allows us to see our UIs broken down to their atomic elements, and also allows us to simultaneously step through how those elements join together to form our final UIs. We learned about the tight bond between content and design, and how atomic design allows us to craft design systems that are tailored to the content that lives inside them. And finally we learned how the language of atomic design gives us a helpful shorthand for discussing modularity with our colleagues, and provides a much needed sense of hierarchy in our design systems.


In Chemistry, these atomic elements have fixed properties that define them. Oxygen and Hydrogen on their own are atoms with independent properties. However when these elements are combined, they create molecules, which take on their own unique characteristics, made up of the atoms they contain. In the case of hydrogen and oxygen, pairing two hydrogen atoms with oxygen creates what we know as the water molecule.


This understanding of how smaller elements, or atoms, can be combined together to create larger objects, or molecules, parallels well with the design world, and the many elements we use to construct our designs. Following the atomic design principles provides us a structure for not only formulating our design, but creates the building blocks for constructing our design systems and pattern libraries.


The template is the first stage of the Atomic Design methodology that does not align to a stage in the molecular world, but is important for Atomic Design. A template is where we begin to curate our organisms and other elements into a cohesive design.


Pages are the final stage of the Atomic Design methodology. This is where instances of templates are created (in this case, one for every profile). In the design process you may not design out pages for every instance, but it is helpful to create a few variations.


As your data changes, different profile information, or languages may impact your template design. Building out to the page stage allows you to test for these variations and make adaptations globally to your templates.


Getting started with atomic design is straightforward. Keeping in mind the idea of building up from small elements to templates and pages, start by mapping out the foundational elements, or atoms, that you will need in your design. Starting with a free UI kit is a great place to start as many of them already include these atomic elements for you to customize.


Atomic Design details all that goes into creating and maintaining robust design systems, allowing your organization to roll out higher quality, more consistent UIs faster than ever before. This book introduces a methodology for thinking of our UIs as thoughtful hierarchies, discusses the qualities of effective style guides, and showcases techniques to transform your team's design and development workflow.


Richard Bray is a 20-something designer of web products, event organiser, speaker, open source contributor. Currently making private aviation more accessible @Stratajet. Contact him (opens in new tab) with CSS related questions, to speak at your event, or just to say 'hi'.


Popularly known within the design world, Atomic Design helps to build consistent, solid and reusable design systems. Plus, in the world of React, Vue and frameworks that stimulate the componentization, Atomic Design is used unconsciously; but when used in the right way, it becomes a powerful ally for developers.The name Atomic Design comes from the idea of separating the components in atoms, molecules, organisms, templates and pages, like in the image above. But what are the responsibilities of each separated part?


Metal catalysts are widely used in modern chemical industry. Pyrolysis is the most commonly employed protocol to prepare heterogeneous metal-based catalysts with sizes from atom-scale (including single-atom (SA) and subnanocluster) to nanoscale and beyond1,2,3,4,5. Nevertheless, structural and compositional evolutions of the pyrolysis precursors at high temperatures are considerably intricate, leading to high difficulty in the controllable construction of uniform sites especially at atomic level. For the metal species, the high surface free energies usually lead to unwilled aggregations (i.e., Ostwald ripening)6,7,8. To improve the dispersion, strategies like reducing the content, partial evaporation or changing the topology of metal precursors have been developed, but the formation of metal-metal bonds is still not fundamentally avoided. In terms of the non-metal species (e.g., carbons and heteroatoms), which are generally transformed into supports or coordinated-atoms after pyrolysis, circumstances are even complex. At high temperatures, the inconsistent physicochemical properties (e.g., chemical environment, thermal stability and spatial distribution) of these non-metal species usually result in uncontrollable decomposition of the precursors9,10,11,12. Besides, the carbonization and subsequent atom migration processes are also highly random, and the evaporation and removal of non-metal components could possibly cause pore generation/collapsing and even dimension changes (e.g., from 3D to 2D)13,14. All these factors make the materials synthesis highly unpredictable. So far, it is still highly demanded to develop versatile and controllable pyrolysis synthesis routes to fundamentally understand the preparation of metal-based catalysts. 041b061a72


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