Intro to Design Systems

Create a design system as a product

In the past couple of years, we have seen a large inflUX of companies that have started to invest heavily in design, exponentially more than in the past.

We could argue that this phenomenon is happening due to the high levels of competition within the IT industry or simply because companies started to recognize the value of design and the benefits that come along with it, but at the end of the day, one thing is for sure: The demand for design is constantly increasing and it doesn’t seem to slow down any time soon.

Why is this information important? Well, besides the fact that this article needed an introduction, the increasing demand for design is actually one of the reasons why design systems exit. They enable companies to easily build, scale and maintain products while keeping everyone involved on the same page.

Definition

A common misconception is that a design system is a style guide or a library of UI components. And even though a design system does, in fact, contain the previously mentioned items, they are just part of the entire system.

In fact, a design system is something much more complex.

It is a collection of principles and standards, style guides and components, that govern a product, multiple products or even entire companies.

What ‘s inside?

Obviously, the actual structure of a design system will differ from case to case, based on the scale of the company, the number of products involved and the number of team members that will use it, but at its core, a design system should contain at least the following categories & items:

1. Brand identity and principles

Company Values

Principles

Brand Assets

2. Style Guide

Grid & Layout

Spacing

Colors

Typography

3. Components

Icons

Buttons

Forms

Lists & Tables

Illustrations

In order to better understand how an actual design system is structured, I attached bellow a few real examples from some of the biggest players in the IT industry.

In short, the main goal of a design system is to increase the speed of development while preserving consistency across the board.

Companies are often struggling to scale and maintain their digital properties in a fast and consistent manner. Especially large companies with many employees and teams.

In those scenarios, design systems become crucial components that influence the well-being of their mission.

Unfortunately, not all companies see it that way. In many cases, the investment required in order to create such a product is labeled as “a waste of time and money”. But thanks to a growing competitive space in almost all industries, that mentality is rapidly changing, forced by a desire of still being in the game amongst the giants.

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