DS Leadership Summit

Leadership Summit photo

I had the opportunity to attend the Design Systems Leadership Summit by Knapsack in San Francisco. It was a great event with great conversations in a beautiful location.

Historic Venue

The SVB Experience Center is a great new iteration of this historic pavilion at One Bush Plaza. The small circular building contrasts with the massive nineteen-story office tower across the Japanese-inspired plaza. The complex, built in 1959, was designed by Edward Charles Bassett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the International Style.

In the mix of tall towers along Market Street, you may walk by without noticing it today, but at the time it was a strong futuristic design statement. You can still see the original style in the restored building today, with its 360-degree glass walls, geometric ceiling structure, terrazzo floors, and spiral staircase. The lower level includes an imposing bank vault that our SVB host explained will store a wine collection for events. It’s nice to see this interesting architecture preserved and open for use.

Leadership Summit photo

Interactive Sharing

Instead of a typical passive lecture, the Knapsack team created a very interactive format where discussions were built into each session, encouraging participation from the whole group. It was really valuable to hear different experiences from many voices in the room. The small size of the group, 29 folks, also made it easier to speak up and share.

Leadership Summit photo


PJ Onori opened the day with the topic of Design System Buy-In. Here are some of my notes:

Panel: Crafting adaptive design systems

Adekunle Oduye lead a panel discussion with Jennie S Y., 🖤 Jina A., Allison S., and Davy Fung about making DS adaptable to current needs and future changes. I noted some takeaways:


Knapsack’s Chris Strahl, and Evan Lovely gave a live demo of their platform and shared a previewed of new features they are working on. It was great to see they are exploring new ways to add value for DS teams beyond the standard docs and token features.


To cap off the day, Nick Hahn led a sharing time for our stories on different DS topics.

Leadership Summit photo Leadership Summit photo

A good day

Overall it was a great experience and a refreshing change from a typical conference or meetup. We had a small enough group to get the introverts like me talking and the focused content was easy to follow and learn from. Free food always helps as well :)

Thanks to the Knapsack team for hosting us and including me. If you’re interested in joining a similar event, check out their future sessions across the US.