Workday’s New Design System: A Canvas for Innovation

Today we introduced the Workday Canvas Design System for customers, partners, and developers worldwide. It offers all the resources necessary to design and create beautiful experiences that continually look and feel like Workday. Read more from Workday CTO Joe Korngiebel.

Creating great enterprise application experiences isn’t just about technology and the “what” in terms of the development tools and techniques; equally important in our Workday DNA is the “how.”

How you design and develop is the difference between good and great experiences. Good experience gets the job done and allows your business to tread water. Great experience changes the game with user engagement and turns the business solution into a competitive advantage.

The “how” starts with design and understanding your users. If you start with “how,” you build new applications that think through the design process with your end user in mind, resulting in the “what” you are building having the capacity to delight and be a game-changer through engagement and results.

That’s why today we’re excited to open up our Workday design process and share the “how” behind the delivery of the experience in Workday applications through the new Workday Canvas Design System.

Our Workday Canvas Design System provides all of the resources necessary to design and create beautiful experiences that continually look and feel like Workday. Now, all of our delivered Workday applications along with the applications that will be built with the Workday Cloud Platform will come together and create consistent and seamless journeys across your enterprise experiences. With this unveiling, we are excited to share our design philosophy with the Workday community.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions around our new Workday Canvas Design System:

What is the Workday Canvas Design System?

The Workday Canvas Design System is much more than a set of instructions—it’s a methodology of guidelines, resources, and recommendations that can be used to make smart design decisions. It’s a living artifact that will continue to grow and change along with our UX, to provide consistent and elegant interactions. The Workday Canvas Design System is not just focused on the “what” you need to be effective from a technical standpoint but importantly the “how” enterprise applications must be designed with the worker in mind to be successful. This is highlighted by embracing the design aspect of the creation process as well as the development side.

Why does the Workday Canvas Design System matter?

Opening up our living and ever-evolving design system allows our customers to extend and scale their investments in Workday at a global enterprise level while keeping the worker experience at the forefront. With Workday Canvas Design System, our customers can design and develop with a consistent, unified engagement experience that is continually built for everyone in the organization across design patterns, platforms (responsive web and mobile), accessibility standards, global translations, corporate branding requirements, and best practices.

Our design system is just, well, a canvas. Our customers will be the ones who create with it using the easel, brushes and palette we provide, so to speak. Our design language was created to allow for flexibility, but it is constrained in the same way a canvas guides an artist within a size and shape.

What’s Workday’s approach to design?

The Workday Canvas Design System encapsulates Workday’s empathetic and compassionate people-centric approach to UX design. Simplicity and ease-of-use are the factors when it comes to how people feel about a tool or application, and the people that use our products are front and center in our approach to design. We take a broad, data-driven look at our users to understand who they are, and in what context they work—informed by the understanding that our choices can make or break someone’s day at work. From there, we generate an abundance of ideas. We don’t shy away from those that are less than perfect, because we know they can lead to the gems.

Next, we experiment with these ideas with our employees and customers to find the best one suited for their needs. We keep iterating until we get to something great. Then, we listen and observe because at the speed of our changing world, today’s best practices might become tomorrow’s barriers. Everything we do builds on what came before it, producing an ever-improving design reference and culture.

How does the Workday Canvas Design System interplay with the Workday Cloud Platform?

The announcement of our intent to open up our Workday Cloud Platform last year provides an increased focus on a new persona for us, the “citizen developer.” A citizen developer is a technically skilled person who builds new business applications using development and runtime environments sanctioned by their corporate IT team, which in turn allow their company to more quickly and efficiently solve business problems. This persona is filled by employees within our customer, partner, and developer organizations worldwide. While we have surfaced capabilities since the beginning for citizen developers to configure their Workday deployment, the Workday Cloud Platform provides a complete toolset for the citizen developer to create their own Workday application experiences.

With the Workday Cloud Platform and Workday Canvas Design System together, citizen developers will be able to create great enterprise experiences that fit seamlessly into their Workday applications without needing to become experts in enterprise user interface and design standards such as accessibility, compliance, global translations support, branding, personalization, navigation, and data privacy.

We’re excited for what’s to come and what our community can create. For more information and to access the Workday Canvas Design System resources, please visit

Posted in:  Technology Innovation

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