Design System – A Central Design language

Innovation, evolution, and scalability lie in the future of every product. While we rely on UX as a key differentiator, the ever-growing demand for a better experience and high-quality products in a short period needs something more than than that.

To create a product, you need a lot of people and a smooth interaction between them. But, the people factor is dynamic, and the same lies for the competition, trends, and scale of the business.

As new features start adding up, the chaos also starts setting in. With every newly added feature, the product consistency suffers, the cost of maintenance grows, and we end up with a low-quality product.

“Here’s a simple truth: you can’t innovate on products without first innovating the way you build them.” —Alex Schleifer, VP of Design at Airbnb

To overcome the challenges of scalability, communication, and consistency, every company needs a set of standards before building a product. A Design system does just that and a lot more. Big brands like IBM, Uber, and Airbnb have already revolutionized the way they design a product by building their very own Design Systems.


What is a Design System?

A Design System is a collection of reusable components and a set of standards that guide these components as to how they should work in a harmonious environment. It is like a set of building blocks with clear instructions on how to use them. A design system aims to bring all the different elements of the product together and provides a shared language for everyone connected with the product.

A good design system makes the workflow more efficient and cost-efficient by removing repetitive jobs and small issues that keep arising during production of the product. In this way, teams can concentrate more on purposeful matters and can deliver faster.


Components of a Design system

  • UI Kit – This kit includes reusable components like buttons, menus, icons, website headers, footers, and so on. A ready-made UI kit cuts down a huge chunk of the designers’ production time.
  • Style Guide – This is a style sheet that describes the rules for the usage of the UI elements like padding, alignment, resizing behavior, dimensions, etc.
  • Component Library – It is a style guide translated into code, describing all elements and components that include them.

Key steps to building a design system

  • Evaluate current UI inventory or create it from scratch – An in-depth review of the existing UI inventory should be the first step before building a design system. The core elements that need evaluation includes existing color schemes, icon libraries, photo libraries, and UI patterns. A new company can start by building a catalog of all reusable components for their product.
  • Gather the team on-board – After the evaluation, getting the teams on-board and communicating them the design inconsistencies and benefits of a centralized design system is the next critical step.
  • Create a Color palette – Colors create an impact and an identity. Recognize the repeatedly used colors and create a primary palette, and by adding certain shades to the primaries, create a secondary palette to give some options to the designers.
  • Create Typography elements guide – A suitable text size, font, spaces, etc. forms the typography elements guide. This guide should also specify any rules on where and when to use these elements.
  • Create graphic design elements – A big library of visual components makes a design system a one-stop-shop. The more the assets, the faster will be the workflow for future projects.
  • Create pattern library – UI patterns are the design elements that are used consistently for creating the interface of your product. For example, how you treat a button hover style or a search function.
  • Standardize other style properties – Standardization of design elements like grid style, white space, etc. is something that differentiates a pattern library from a Design system.
  • Upload the select UI elements in a design system document – Uploading your design system at a place that is accessible to all is the final step into the creation of a design system.

Types of Design systems

A strict design system follows a stringent process for including a new pattern in the system. It relies on extensive documentation that describes the usage of the design elements at every step of design and development.


A loose system does not force the designers and developers to follow the exact guidelines for the usage of design elements. It provides them a framework but without any restrictions on its application.


A design system that achieves a balance between strict and loose system proves to be the one that is effective and caters to the needs of every participant.


Why do you need a design system for your business?

  • Increases efficiency – Design systems help to save precious time of designers that used to get lost in designing repetitive elements from scratch. Through reusable components, the efficiency of the team rises considerably.
  • Reduces build time – As the designers and developers have ready to use components as well as clear instructions on their usage, their jobs become faster, resulting in reduced build time.
  • Brings brand consistency– A consistent design is easy to understand and is instinctive. With the use and reuse of the same user interface principles across different platforms, you deliver a consistent experience to the users. With consistency in brand communication, people feel more connected with the product, and their trust in the brand increases.
  • Reduces design and development cost – A ready-made design system lets your workforce work faster and smarter. With a complete library of design components and the guidelines to use them, you need lesser people on board to design and develop, and you end up saving a lot of precious time and money.
  • Better internal communication – As different teams get involved in the production pipeline, internal communication tends to get disorganized. A design system provides complete documentation and understanding of the product to all the collaborators and leaves little to no room for confusion and internal miscommunication.
  • Helps build faster products at scale – With a pre-loaded library of design patterns, rules, and UX guidelines, a design system prevents inconsistencies while shipping products at scale. With lesser inconsistencies and re-work, you again end up saving crucial resources. In addition to this, a design system makes changes or additions to the product less intimidating.
  • Less version control issues – Debugging is time-consuming and can be quite bothersome when you have to update the same bug on different products. But, with design systems, you update the bug once, and it populates all events.
  • Strong Brand image– Design systems aim to communicate the feeling and identity behind a brand through its guidelines and rules. The end product that you get is cohesive and communicates consistently with its audience. A design system helps create powerful brands that are impactful and connect with the users.

The development of a design system is a one-time investment that provides an indisputable competitive advantage to your business in the long-run.

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