Refresh meets Camden: Design systems live in code

Camden feeling happy probably because he can create some order into the world through design systems.

Camden feeling happy probably because he can create some order into the world through design systems.

Camden Asay is a Lead Product Designer at Lifion, and specialized in building design systems for large scale products. He will share his experience on that on Design Stage at Refresh Conference. His passion is empowering designers and developers to build useful and fulfilling tools for their customers.

Lifion by ADP builds globally scalable products and offers human resource management software that allows companies to grow and win in the market. It brings together some of the brightest developers, architects, and designers in the industry. With 650,000 active clients, Lifion is positioned to be the operating system for HR.

We interviewed Camden, and he was happy to share his visions, personal experiences, and design system fundamentals.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what have you done so far, and what are you currently doing?
I am a product designer who specializes in design systems and I currently live in New York City. I am passionate about building useful applications that empower people to get things done. Right now, I work at Lifion by ADP and I lead their design systems team. If you are not familiar with ADP, we offer human resource management software and Lifion is transforming a world of HR pain into useful tools and meaningful experiences for millions of people worldwide.

Before Lifion, I worked on a range of products at Comcast, including Xfinity Home, Xfinity Mobile, and Xfinity TV.

I grew up in the small but mighty state of Delaware in the US. I enjoy rock climbing and the outdoors. Little known fact about me — I trained falcons as a kid.


What motivates you in your job?
I get really motivated when I see applications that solve important problems but have a really poor user-experience, especially when the subject matter is really complicated. I know there is a good reason why it has been built the way that it is but I can also see the potential for them to be so much better. You could say I like fixer-uppers. I can’t wait to hunker down and start doing the work to simplify and refine them over time, until one day the user experience is so good that they are unrecognizable from their former selves.

I also really enjoy empowering fast moving design and developments teams by facilitating the creation of a design system.


I think design systems go hand in hand with improving complex applications and it takes a team to do this kind of work.


When teams are moving fast (which is a good thing), decisions are often made on the fly, which can often lead to teams getting out of sync and the same problems being solved over and over again in different ways. It is so rewarding to see designers and developers begin to leverage each other’s solutions by using the design system. It also allows all the teams to move even faster than they could when they were out of sync.


What is the most important part of a design system, and why?
Most design systems have three main parts:

  • Foundational Styles (color, typography, layout, spacing, etc.);
  • Components (buttons, inputs, tabs, etc.);
  • Patterns (page structure, navigation, common flows, etc.).

So which part is most important?

What makes a design system so challenging to design is that there is no most important part.


All the pieces must work together to function properly or the system falls apart.


To do this successfully, all the pieces of a design system need to be developed at the same time and built up together. For example, if I am working on a new color system, I need to test these new colors in some components and then I need to test those components in a page and that page needs to be tested in a flow and only then do I realize that the colors don’t work. It can be a very frustrating process at the beginning but once things start working, everything starts to fall into place all at once.


When is a design system truly successful?


A design system is successful when you have a great product that is easy to maintain and continuously improve.


A good design system makes it easier to design, easier to develop and easier for your customers to use your product. If all three of those things are not happening, then your design system is not a success yet.


Why is the collaboration between design and development so important?
Design systems live in code. They don’t live in Sketch or on a guidelines website. To build a great design system, you need to build it in code, and for that, you need design and development working together. In fact, you really need designers who understand and enjoy code and developers who understand and enjoy design. If that collaborative relationship does not exist, then that is the first thing I would recommend working on. A good design system benefits all parties.


What is your vision for the future?
My vision for the future is one where all the applications and websites that we have to use are as user-friendly as the applications we choose to use.


Last but not least some fire questions. Please complete the following sentences:
Never be afraid of …
… starting over because you realized your initial ideas are not turning out.

Success is …
… when everyone wins.

Failure is …
… temporary.

It makes me happy …
… when my team comes together to create something that none of us could have created on our own.



Refresh Conference is a product, design and front-end conference. It will take place on September 7 for the fourth time already and will bring 20 great speakers and 700+ attendees to Tallinn, Estonia. Refresh provides inspiration for building great product experiences and design on the web.


Author: Katharina Sowa
Social Media Marketing & Content
Refresh Conference