Saint Hedwig and the New Convent; Nuns from Bamberg Settling at the New Convent — Paul Getty Museum

Design systems, medieval cathedrals, and architects.

Was the Gothic style one of the first examples of a “design language” based on modularity and repetition?

“Is it possible to draw parallels between the art of the medieval cathedrals, and the design of a modern design system?”

Some images I collected of the Freiburg Münster in Freiburg (Germany)
Some images of the stained glasses inside the Freiburg Münster in Freiburg (Germany)
The pulpit of Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna) is decorated with snakes, lizards, and frogs, crawling up along the handrail, guarded by a little dog at the top.
Detail of a medieval window at Troyes Cathedral, France (14th century) — Wikimedia Commons
Examples of construction of buildings in medieval miniature — Wikimedia Commons
Dessin de la partie centrale de la façade de la cathédrale de Strasbourg (vers 1360–1370) — Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame
An example of “design annotation” used in the designer-developer handover, specifically focused on a component of a design system.
File-Jean Fouquet — The Building of a Cathedral — Wikimedia Commons
A mid-thirteenth century drawing showing a king (“patron”) and his master mason (“architect”) engaged in an animated conversation during a visit to the building site. Notice the finger, indicating that the king is giving instructions. (Matthew Paris — London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero D. 1, fol. 23 v)
Botanical details in different paintings, on display a the Augustinermuseum in Freiburg. Each one of these plant and flower is not there just for decoration: it has a very specific — and codified — meaning.

Further readings:

Below you can find a small selection of interesting articles and other links, in case you want to learn (a little bit) more on the subject of gothic and medieval art, of its symbolism, of the stonemasons that built the cathedrals, the relation between the patron and the builders, etc.

Articles online


Design System Lead at Bumble. In love with Atomic Design, Design Systems & CSS architecture. Attendee/speaker/organiser of tech conferences and meetups.