Design Systems 101: A Guide For Mid-Size Organisations

This blog can be your quick guide to understanding design systems from both developers' and designers' perspectives.
Sony Gupta
Dec 14, 2022

The speed at which UI displays must be produced has grown as UI design has progressed. In addition to the fact that there are millions of applications and websites (with new ones being produced every year), each of these resources may have hundreds of pages (or screens). Organizations urgently need to simplify design work due to this dramatic increase.

Many design teams use reliable design systems to handle designs and developments at scale.

What is a Design System?

The definition of a design system varies for designers and developers. To a designer a design system is a comprehensive collection of guidelines used to manage design at scale using reusable parts and patterns. And developers can think of it like a library of all the design assets you could need, customized specifically for your application.

Does your Organization Need a Design System?

Have you ever questioned if a design style manual is necessary for your business?
Just ask yourself: 

  • Do you have one logo or many logos representing my brand? 
  • Do you always use specific colors? 
  • Are there any specific words your brand uses or avoids you like to use more than others, and which ones should you avoid using? 

If the answer to all these is yes, you would need some sort of a style manual that a design system can fulfill.

Why Are Organizations Investing in Design Systems?

  • It improves design and development conformity

A consistent design not only streamlines the work for your team, but it also helps develop brand awareness and improves the consumer experience. In a Lucidpress study from 2019, 24.5% of participants indicated that uneven branding "creates uncertainty in the market," and 18.6% felt that inconsistent branding might be bad for a brand's reputation. Using a consistent design may clear up any misunderstandings and improve brand recognition.

  • It enables cross-functional cooperation. 

Operational silos may be eliminated with the use of a smart design system. Your design and product teams may work closely together throughout the course of each new project if you take a thorough approach to design and execution.

  • It speeds up and makes designs and development more scalable. 

With the help of a design system, your team may work more rapidly and exercise their creative muscles by reducing repetitive tasks, such as continually designing the same pieces and thoughts or developing the same pieces of code.

The Building Blocks of Design System

Design System Repository

Although design repositories can take many forms, they usually include a style guide, a library of components, and a library of design patterns.

Style Guide Design

For creating UI interfaces or any other print design, style guides include explicit implementation rules, visual references, and design concepts. The most common style guidelines concentrate on branding (colors, typography, trademarks, logos, and print media). However, style guides also provide standards for visual and interaction design and content (such as tone of voice and language suggestions) (also known as front-end style guides). These rules are occasionally added to the component library to offer pertinent rules that are contextually appropriate.

Component Library

Component libraries, also referred to as design libraries, are what most people think of when they think of design systems. These comprehensive libraries contain predetermined, reusable UI elements and act as a one-stop resource for designers and developers to understand and re-use particular UI elements.

How to Approach the Adoption of Design-Systems

A design system can be developed following one of the three methodologies.

  1. Adopting a current design methodology
  2. Modifying a current design methodology
  3. Developing a unique design system of your own

Each methodology has its advantages and disadvantages, but generally speaking, the more customized your design-system solution is, the longer and more expensive the implementation process will be. Utilizing an existing design system compared to building a new one from scratch is, therefore, the most time and money-effective strategy. 

Summing Up

Design systems, which may assist, operationalize and improve your design efforts, consist of several elements, patterns, styles, and principles. They are, however, created, controlled, and put into action by humans. The size and repeatability of your projects, together with the available materials and time, are the essential aspects to consider while developing a design system.

Design systems may become cumbersome collections of design and code when the design system is not tailored to the organization's business requirement or is not actively maintained/updated. Still, when done well, they can train team members, improve operations, and provide designers with the tools they need to solve challenging UX issues.