Without doubt, I get asked about design systems more than anything else. So, having spent the majority of the past few years thinking about how to design, build and present design systems for products like Marvel, Bantamand Modulz, I figured I’d share some of what I’ve learned along the way.
What is a design system?
It’s no secret that designers love a good UI kit. However, beyond just putting together toolkits and style guides, it seems that recently there’s been increasing focus placed on designing systems intended to tie whole products together. Companies like Shopify and Intercom are building in-house teams focused specifically on designing systems. People are starting to realise the importance of systemic design. This is encouraging. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll have a design tool that doesn’t assume we’re starting from scratch every time we open a new document…?
A design system (as it pertains to tech products) is more than a framework, UI toolkit or component library. It’s more than a style guide or set of code guidelines. It’s even more than the sum of those parts. A design system is an evolving ruleset governing the composition of a product.
There are many facets to any good design system — starting with company culture/mission and trickling all the way down to branding, copywriting, component libraries and other design language. The higher level points are arguably the most important aspects of any design system but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that as a company — you know who you are, what your mission is and how your products should look, feel and function.