Introduction to Design Systems: Why Every Product Team Needs One

Discover how Design Systems can increase efficiency and take your digital experiences to the next level.

Product teams constantly look for ways to become more efficient, increase customer experience, and build better products. A simple way they can achieve this end is by implementing a design system. A design system, can not only help your product team with its next project but all projects thereafter. 

A design system is a guide or “blueprint” utilized to maintain visual consistency, increase collaboration, and maintain high quality in product development. It is a broader overview than a brand guide or a style guide. The design system may include reusable UI components, guidelines, typography, color schemes, and more. The goal is to create a cohesive user experience across all products, platforms, and devices.

What are the Benefits of Using a Design System?

Consistent User Experience

If you go to an Italian restaurant and get served Chinese food, it would be surprising and inconsistent with your expectations to be served Italian food. It’s the same with products and experiences, your users expect your products to have the same “vibe” throughout the end-to-end product journey. Users want and need a consistent user experience. This helps them build faith and trust in your product and reduces friction when they navigate the customer journey. The guidelines and elements outlined in a design system provide users with the consistency that leads to greater customer loyalty, satisfaction, and customer lifetime value.

Efficiency & Collaboration

Design systems improve efficiency by saving valuable time for your designers and developers through the use of reusable components and design guidelines. Without having to design everything from scratch, the team can get the ball rolling faster on the project. They can also work at greater speeds by using tried and true methods and components that can be found in your guide! With everyone looking at the same guidelines it is far easier to effectively collaborate across your team. The design system provides designers, developers, and other stakeholders with a common language and set of tools to utilize. The design system becomes their single reference point preventing miscommunications and conflict that can bog down the design process. Efficiency is gained when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a new product or experience is launched. Saving all that time saves you precious resources that could be invested in other ventures.

Scalability & Documentation

A design system is a scalable foundation that helps your team maintain consistency in your products while they scale. Design systems function as a guide defining the core design principles for new features and products. It’s also important to note they are not absolute. Design systems are also highly flexible. A successful design system will be adaptable and evolve with the product you are creating without your user experience suffering. 

What are the Key Components of a Design System?

Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the key elements of a design system. 

  1. UI Components: Also known as a UI Kit, these reusable components are the basics of your design system as well as your website or application. Elements like buttons, forms, navigation bars, and more make up your UI components.
  2. Pattern Library: “Patterns” are combinations of UI components. These patterns create solutions that solve common problems that users face. Patterns are processes rather than design elements. Filtering and loading are examples of patterns.
  3. Guidelines: Guidelines can apply to several aspects of your design including content and accessibility. They do exactly what you would assume. Guidelines provide instructions on how to use the components and patterns in a way that promotes consistency across your designs. Content guidelines for example, cover things like grammar and tone to help you keep a consistent voice in your experiences.
  4. Design Principles: Design principles are a part of the big picture. They are the values and philosophies that guide your design. Following these principles will allow your team to more effectively align on the goals and vision of your products. An example of a design principle would be Microsoft Fluent 2’s principle of “built for focus.” They say the experiences should inspire action and keep you in the flow.
  5. Design Tokens: Design tokens are small repeated design decisions that help maintain unity in design systems. Examples include color, typography, line spacing, opacity level, and more.
  6. Grid System: Grid systems are a framework for structuring content on the screen, ensuring consistent layout and spacing. They are simple to use and provide clarity to the viewer.
  7. Documentation: Documentation is a comprehensive guide on using the aspects of a design system. It contains principles, components, and best practices, along with how to use them. This is valuable for onboarding new team members and ensuring consistent use and implementation of the design system.

Examples of Popular Design Systems

Major tech leaders have created their own design systems that many have used as a guide of their own. A few examples include:

Google Material Design

Google stands as one of the greatest tech companies to date, constantly advancing and releasing new and exciting creations. It stands to reason that Google’s Material Design is one of the most well-known design systems. Their design systems are focused on using grid-based layouts to create digital experiences for Android, iOS, Flutter, and the web. Along with the grid-based approach, Google’s Material Design uses motion, light, and shadow to achieve these ends. 

IBM Carbon Design System

A year after Google released its Material Design, IBM created its design language called the Carbon Design System. Carbon is an open-source design system with working code, design guidelines, and external contributors. IBM’s Carbon prides itself on its open identity, flexibility, and putting users first. This open nature leads their product to be consistently improved. Carbon offers training, certifications, and meetups to encourage the adoption of their product.

Atlassian Design System

Atlassian’s Design System leans its focus toward creating software development and collaboration tools. Like all design systems, this system seeks to build consistent and user-friendly products with efficiency. It strives to create a system that is easy to use and produces digital experiences that are harmonious, solve common problems, and are empowering for everyone. Jira and Loom are some popular examples of tools made with the Atlassian Design System. 

A Design System of Your Own

If you are looking to create more efficient and consistent products and experiences on your team, a design system may be the right choice for you. Creating your own design system could set your company up for greatness. If your company does not have the scale, time, or capital to invest in developing your own design system you can use one that has already been developed.  Collaboration is key to product success, and a design system can help you and your team get on the same page and stay on course into the future. With consistency, efficiency, and scalability, the pillars of design systems, you can achieve new levels of customer satisfaction.  

If you are struggling to decide what is best for you and your team, reaching out to a digital product company for consulting and insight can be a great option. Camber Creative can help you build your shiny new design system. We’ll help you build a framework that aligns with your vision, allowing your digital experiences to soar to new heights.


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