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Why your product needs a design system

Learn the benefits of building a design system for your product

Design systems are like your wardrobe

How do you dress? Do you have a particular style, specific colors and accessories, you like to wear? In a well-diversified wardrobe, first, you will have a variety of basics, classics, and some more eccentric pieces. Also, depending on how well your wardrobe is organized, you either find your clothes fast and easy, or you need to spend some time on this. Design systems basically function in the same way.

Intro to design systems

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Design systems are libraries of reusable components that, when combined, build the layout of a digital product. They are meant to keep consistency and help the harmonious organization of each page. In general, all products are supported by this type of manual. It explains how everything is organized, starting with the smallest pieces and then expanding to the whole layout. Moreover, this visual and descriptive guide is meant to help anyone who is part of the development team—designers, developers, and even the marketing team. There isn’t only one way to build a design system. Depending on the product, some might even consist of characteristics like tone of voice, illustration systems, or well-organized templates.

Some of the most popular existing design systems for digital products are open sources like the Human Interface Guidelines by Apple or Material Design System by Google.

Having a look at those will help you understand what a design system structure is, what the usual elements in one system are, and how that system is organized.

How and where can you get a design system

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A good rule of thumb is that you should begin planning your design system as you begin planning your digital product. Begin with looking at some factors like your company’s brand voice, style, and identity and then consider technical limitations and implementation.

The people who will build the design system are the design team together with the tech team. They should be able to scope out how many components, styles, etc. should be part of the system at the very beginning. As your product grows, the design system will grow with it. The better the system is organized and managed, the easier it will be to keep the consistency.

There are many open-source, bootstrapped design systems with which you can begin if you have a smaller budget. It’s better to begin with any system rather than neglecting it. Some designers and agencies are even selling design system templates that you can integrate and completely customize in design software like Figma, Sketch, or Abobe XD.

For your reference, here are some more design systems that you could explore to get a better understanding of what they usually consist of.

Any product needs a design system

Why does any product need a design system? No matter how big or small they are, they just need it, period. The reason why, is that without one there won’t be any clarity of general style, components, and layouts. Especially for more complex products, developing without a system means that at some point this process will begin to be quite costly, frustrating, and inefficient. Here are just a few benefits that come from building a design system:

  • Invest to save: By investing in the development of a design system early, you will ensure the healthy growth of the product in the future.
  • One source of troughs: Keep the system documentation and library in one place. That way everyone can update, find what they are looking for, and learn more about the product.
  • Keep code clean: By documenting all components and styles, you will ensure that developers will keep track of the correct implementation.
  • Share with external teams: With a design system, you will be set up to have supereasy collaboration. When hiring external teams to help with your project, you will be able to share the design system with them in just a few clicks!
  • Keep the consistency and clarity: Without a design system, the work of the development team will turn into a nightmare. This is because, even if there is no documentation, there will already be some styles and components in use, but no one will have a view of the big picture.
  • Own your product and company assets: Nowadays, digital assets are an investment. You want to think smart about yours—document and own them.

 

Where to begin

There are many ways in which you can start based on the level of complexity and how customized you want your product to be. Here is one example of system organization that we personally use and love: the atomic design system by Brad Frost.

https://atomicdesign.bradfrost.com/chapter-1/

Conclusion

With everything mentioned above, I hope you are now design system positive! So, start building your design system today. Make the process of building your digital product pleasant and enjoyable for everyone by keeping design tight and organized.

Thank you for reading! 💜

We are GEOBO, a design studio specialising in branding for fashion and creative tech companies.