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Sounds intriguing, but I'm also a little confused about the flow of "code that generates sketch files"... what is the purpose of Sketch in all this?

I would think programs like Sketch are useful in general because they give designers a nice way to design things without adding the extra layers of abstraction that code brings (i.e. they can just draw things with a mouse instead of writing instructions that tell the computer how to draw things). But if Sketch is just another rendering layer of react components, then what is the point of having it... why not just look at the rendering in a web browser?

Or am I misunderstanding and there's a way for react code to be generated from Sketch? (Despite this statement in your blog post: "As the industry has coalesced around Sketch, people have sought to generate code from Sketch. This is exciting, but for our challenges we wanted to do the exact opposite — to keep DLS in sync we have to generate Sketch files from code.")

Hello, I work at Airbnb and helped Jon with this project a bit.

A lot of people when they first learn about this project have a hard time understanding how it would be useful - so you're not alone!

I tweeted ([0]) about this briefly and thought I'd copy here for the benefit of readers in this thread:

> the wild thing about react-sketchapp is that we can now bootstrap designs with the actual code that powers the product we are designing

> it took me a little while to realize the paradigm shift. we normally think of the code / implementation as the end of the process

> this allows us to use production code not only for our production clients, but also for starting the next iteration

> react being decoupled from the underlying UI implementation unlocks a lot of possibilities. this is just one.

> we are starting to view our react components for our design language as not just an implementation, but as the specification itself

  [0]: https://twitter.com/intelligibabble/status/856941689029640192

mind blown

This is exactly what I'm doing with Semantic UI React. I'm prototyping in React, and building my own visual language on top of the visual language of Semantic UI. I see how I could instead render my components to Sketch instead (if a really great Sketch file with all the Semantic UI components existed).


To go the other way -- generating React code from Sketch -- you can use React Studio:


It has a Sketch plugin that does a rather competent job of converting Sketch layers/groups into components. (For example, you can prefix a Sketch group with "c:", and React Studio will interpret it as a component.)

Here is a live video demonstrating the Sketch -> React Studio -> React code workflow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd7zmlFZw8 (It's in realtime with detailed explanations, so it runs about 40 minutes.)

Disclaimer: I wrote a pile of code for React Studio.

If reactstudio could support loading in react form, components, color themes etc al from the hundreds of react themes sold from places like envato, themeforest, etc. then a whole class of UI mock ups could be built. Example themes:




It seems like the logical conclusion is to create a two-way data binding in a live-coding environment.

The idea behind React Studio is awesome.

I think it would be super cool if React Studio could automatically create a GraphQL api based on the structure of the component data.

We are already doing small experiments in this direction at Graphcool (for example graphql-up https://www.graph.cool/graphql-up/)

Do you think anyone at Reract Studio would be interested in talking more about this? They can ping me at soren@graph.cool :-)

Sounds really great, I'll pass on your contact info!

Interesting. But, the monthly Adobe-esque subscription fee is a turn off.

That is of course something that can change. What kind of pricing would you prefer?

Any kind of one-time pricing would be great.

Ideally, with a perpetual license with 1-year of free upgrades.

That seems definitely possible. I think what the team was worried about is sticker shock -- $19/month might translate to something in the region of $200-250 for the scheme you propose. Does that sound bearable?

perpetual license is what scared me off as well. Ideally $199 with 1 year upgrades. As long as it keeps working after 1 year I am sold.



"why not just look at the rendering in a web browser"

This is a good question — I’m a technical-leaning designer so I’m partial to just using browser-based tools. I think things like Deco and Expo Snack are wonderful.

That said, I’m specifically looking at improving the efficiency of designers’ workflows without changing them. My team is part of DesignOps at Airbnb, maybe useful to consider it analogously to DevOps. ~= “We’re changing the servers that our applications are deployed on without forcing our engineers to learn a new language”.

Anyway, 1) having Sketch templates always-in-sync with real components is huge, 2) we’re building custom UIs on top of Sketch to use those components (which we may open source eventually), 3) this is a baby step to get us to the point where component-centric tools like Deco and Subform are good enough to realistically switch our design team to.

So... basically this entire system is really just a way to render React components in the Sketch App? And any changes to the design cannot be made in the sketch app, but instead must be made in React code? (So Sketch is just a "read-only" tool?)

It's a library of design components generated by in-production code.

In theory a full design system has most individual pieces defined. You know what your button styles, inputs, headers, etc are and designing new layouts is often a matter of rearranging these various components — you'll occasionally need to design new ones, so that's the outlier here.

This ensures designers are using a single source of truth when it comes to existing components (which is pretty spectacular, because traditionally designers often maintain an overlapping library of static components for design purposes). It also helps hugely that I could pull in real data instead of trying to transpose some real-ish information into a static mock-up.

And of course there's still that design/developer grey area. I'm educated as a designer, but I'm extensively knowledgable about HTML/CSS/SASS — and that still only takes me so far. I know basic JS, but I'm not going to pretend that I can use React. Sometimes I still need to build static mock-ups so I can try out animations or storyboard userflows, do usertesting, etc.

i assume they want to have only one "place of truth" which should be code. The designers can generate the skethfile of components and then use them in their layouts (eg usecase core components)

also it opens up things like "using real (suboptimal) data" or cross-project-wide refactoring of design, etc

Ah, this makes sense (assuming this is what they're saying).

So there would be one sketch file for the basic components that is generated from the React code, but the designers who design specific pages of the site (for example) would still design in sketch, but pull from the components of the one "read-only" (react-generated) sketch files. Very cool!

Exactly (and thanks to Andreas for explaining it better than me).

We have a design systems team that creates & maintains the system (in collaboration with our product designers), resulting in read-only Sketch templates. when _designing with_ canonical components our product designers are using that template, so it's kind of the same workflow - we're just creating the read-only templates from code rather than by hand.

So your design systems team has to be able to code React components, or any change or new component has to be coded by a developer before being made available to your product designers?

If so, does is not lengthen and complicate a lot your design process?

Would be fantastic to add a section to the blog post and project README with a quote like this

> the designers who design specific pages of the site (for example) would still design in sketch, but pull from the components of the one "read-only" (react-generated) sketch file

Maybe under a "why use this?" heading?

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