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Today, design systems have become a necessary component of any successful product. They help businesses create harmonious, consistent, and functional interfaces. A professional design system also enables faster production—Figma conducted an experiment in which designers were 34% more efficient when using a design system.

So, what is a design system? It is a compilation of UX and UI elements created following well-defined standards. The system helps to identify common functionalities, categorize them, and generate usage rules. For example, it defines the basic rules of using colors, their combinations, and application methods.

That’s just one of the instances where building the design system proves helpful. This “treasury” of visual solutions, code snippets, design guidelines, documentation, articles, and even philosophical principles helps and keeps designers, programmers, copywriters, and other team members involved in creating the product within the company’s visual framework.

What’s a design system?

Although we’ve already defined it, let’s check what Figma says about design systems. According to Figma, a design system is essentially a collection of building blocks and guidelines that maintain consistency in the appearance and feel of products and experiences. Consider it a blueprint, providing a common language and structured framework to assist teams through the challenging digital product development process.

Usually, design system basics are:

  • Brand guidelines and style guide

Style guides and brand guidelines contain rules, standards, and design principles used to create an identical and consistent look for a product.


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  • UI kits and templates

UI kits and templates are sets of ready-made components and layouts that enable faster development of interface applications or websites. They provide standard components, such as buttons, input fields, and navigation panels, which can be easily added to the project without any changes and save designers time and effort.

  • Sets of UX patterns

Sets of UX patterns are generally accepted and proven solutions that ensure smooth user interaction. These patterns include typical scenarios, guidelines, and rules for element placement, navigation, interactive effects, and other aspects of UX. Together, these sets help boost the design process since all possible solutions have already been considered and entered into the documentation. So, the designer only has to choose the most relevant one.

  • Libraries of ready-made components

Libraries of ready-made components are collections of designed and tested elements, such as buttons, menus, and carousels, which can be used for various products. They save the time needed to create essential design elements from scratch and reduce development time in the future.

  • Documentation, rules, and recommendations

The design system documentation describes the instructions, rules, recommendations, and standards that ensure consistency and uniformity of the product’s design. Thanks to it, any designer or developer can understand the rules and principles of the design system and, therefore, get involved in the process faster.

Read also: Navigating the Website Redesign Cost Maze for Optimal Results

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When do you need a design system?

Almost any digital product needs to have its own design system. Unless you’re a one-pager or don’t plan on scaling at all. In other cases, building the design system is a must-have. Let’s get detailed.

First of all, a design system is necessary for products that work on numerous platforms (web, mobile, desktop applications). Thanks to it, visual unity and integrity are ensured on all platforms, which makes the product more appealing and convenient for users.

It is also a proper solution for a product that currently works on only one platform but is expected to scale up shortly, With it, a project designer won’t need to create adaptations from scratch. However, if scaling is planned for later, it might be better to build a design system right before the scaling.

At the same time, there are cases when the design system is unnecessary. For example, it is not required if your product is small and single-platform, your product is at the MVP stage and will soon be changed, or you have only one landing page.

An important rule of thumb here is that without constant support & updates, the design system is just a waste of time and resources. It is a living organism that must constantly adapt to the product, which changes over time. Many people imagine a design system as ordinary layouts in Figma. Still, in fact, it is a conditional base of components developed by a design system engineer and lies in a toolbox to be taken into the live version of the product at any time.

A design system is an investment

Design systems have a lot of business advantages that you may appreciate in the long run. Creating a design system is an indisputable investment that significantly benefits everybody – the customer, the team of developers and designers, and the entire product. It brings unity, consistency, and efficiency in design and development, which leads to increased productivity, reduced time and effort, and ensures high quality and stability of the product.

If your design system in, for instance, Figma is aligned with the front end of your product, the creative process becomes much faster and more efficient. In this case, it’s possible to simply build layouts using ready-made components as the constructor. Need a flow for a new feature? Without wasting time creating new elements, the designer uses ready-made components from the design system to assemble a new flow. The developer views the layout and uses already prepared components from the design system to implement the functionality.

This approach allows products to speed up the development process as much as possible, ensure the unity of product design and functionality, and increase team productivity and work quality. Cost savings are obvious: if you don’t have to make a new complex component every time but take one already developed and tested, it significantly speeds up development and time-to-market indicators.

Also, the importance of the proper design system can be very clearly understood during scaling. If a new sub-product or platform is added, then the existing components are adapted to it (sometimes without any changes from the design side, only from the development), saving businesses time and money again.

It is important to note that design systems are not only sought after by design and development teams but also have a tangible business impact. The advantages they bring are too substantial to overlook. The numbers say it all: on average, implementation of a design system can result in annual savings of over $1.5 million, or approximately 21.25% of the time in a typical product development budget.

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To sum up

So, if you work with a design system agency, you invest your time and resources in creating a design system. Yet, it will undoubtedly produce great benefits next time you’ll need to develop a page from scratch.

As your company expands, along with your product and team, designers and developers can utilize reusable components and avoid wasting time recreating them from scratch. With pre-established components and clear guidelines on their usage, unnecessary meetings to discuss implementation details are eliminated, resulting in even more time saved.

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Here are questions we are often asked by our clients, but if you have any other queries, don't be shy — drop us a line!
What is the difference between a design system, a style guide, and a pattern library?

A design system encompasses a broader scope, including design principles, components, and guidelines, while a style guide focuses primarily on visual design elements. A pattern library specifically catalogs reusable design solutions or patterns.

How do you convince stakeholders of the value of investing in a design system?

Demonstrate the potential of a design system to streamline design processes, ensure consistency, and enhance user experience, leading to cost savings and improved brand perception, to convince stakeholders of the value of investing in one.

Can small startups or projects benefit from a design system?

Yes, small startups or projects can benefit from a design system by establishing consistency, scalability, and efficiency in their design processes from the outset, thereby saving time and resources as they grow.

How do you maintain a design system over time?

Establish clear governance structures, conduct regular audits and updates, foster collaboration among team members, and solicit feedback from stakeholders and users to maintain a design system over time.

Are there any tools or resources recommended for developing a design system?

Tools and resources recommended for developing a design system include Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, and tools like InVision DSM, Abstract, or Zeroheight for documentation and collaboration. Resources such as the Material Design guidelines or the A11Y Project can also provide valuable insights and best practices.

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