Design System is one of the most excessively used design terms in the software industry right now, so much so that it has given birth to a parody Twitter account that calls people out on their overuse of the concept as a mere keyword.
There is a lot of uncertainty about its definition, different professionals have different definition of Design Systems. But here’s one that will put your mind to ease.
A Design System is a set of deliverables(not a deliverable itself) that acts as a single source of truth for design and development teams to realize a product. It evolves constantly with the product, tools, and new technologies.
Going with the wind a lot of companies tend to claim that they have a Design System in place. But in reality, they’re just pointing towards their Sketch libraries and style guides.
You can’t call libraries or style guides Design Systems for the same reasons you can’t call individual notes of music, a song.
You can’t make a functional software with just some static designs and patterns, just as you can’t make a song with a music sheet filled with notes and melodies, you’d also need instruments and singers to conduct a piece of music.
Design Systems can be simple, comprehensive, strict, loose, mono or cross-platform. Based on the scale of projects or operations, you can define what kind of Design System you need. Because it’s always easier to find things when you know what you’re looking for.
Start by asking the right questions:
Based on the scope there are two types of Design system. You can either go for a Modular Design System or an Integrated one.
Module based Design Systems are good for large scale projects like e-commerce, finance and government websites. It’ll enable you to scale quickly and adapt to multiple user needs. There is one downside to module based system though, it can be expensive to build and maintain.
An integrated system focuses on one unique context. It’s also composed of parts, but these parts will not be interchangeable. This kind of system suits products that have very few repeating parts and that need a strong and often changing Art Direction (portfolios, showcases, marketing campaign).
Based on the process you can either build a Centralized or Distributed Design System.
In a centralized model, one team is in charge of the System and makes it evolve. This team ensures that the System covers everyone’s needs.
In a distributed model, several people of several teams are in charge of the system. The adoption of the system is quicker because everyone feels involved but it also needs team leaders that will keep an overall vision of it.
Regardless of the type of system you choose, a Design System consists of:
If you’re a big organization, it’s likely that you have multiple products and services that need to reflect a consistent brand identity. A Design System helps you do that with it’s efficient organization and one-click implementation across all the assets. A Design System has all the pieces engineered to fit together like a lego set, as and when needed. Which makes designing highly scalable, reliable, efficient, and robust.
Here are the benefits of a Design System
An extensive design system alone won’t solve your problems. You’ll also need good designers to create a unique and reusable system and good developers to interpret it their own way.
Let us know if you’re on the lookout for something just like this. Pardon the Coldplay wordplay.