What is a design system?

When you have a set of guidelines to navigate through a specific system, you’re halfway to achieving success. First, however, like many great platforms of businesses, a plan needs to be set to ensure that every stakeholder working on the project has one clear goal and vision in mind. In straightforward terms, this is what a design system entails – to understand this better, we’ve asked Craig Jamieson, Chief Design Officer at MOHARA, to give his insights on the topic.

Please give a concise description of a design system.

A design system is a system for the user interface. It’s a single source of truth for designers and engineers to access the visual style guides, typography system, colour system, tokens, templates, component libraries of documented and coded elements to be reused, design patterns, boilerplates, voice and tone guides, and so much more.

What elements make up a design system?

To simplify it, most elements that make up the apps, websites, and digital products we make have similar parts, like buttons, input fields, tables, typography, etc. A design system keeps all of these assets together. They are available as an online repository to be accessed by internal and external design teams, engineers, project managers, and outsourced partners.

In which way does a design system promote cohesiveness?

A design system aligns, governs and increases consistency across various projects in small and large organisations, from startups to global corporations. It creates cohesive alignment and increases productivity, making development more efficient.

Design systems introduce a set of defined principles and standards defined upfront. This makes it easy to deliver solutions of consistent quality.

What is the first step to take when setting up a design system?

It’s easiest to audit your existing assets, narrowing down and defining the atomic-level items that make up their components. Those yet to be defined are built up as solutions are produced, ensuring future alignment.

While it’s tempting to produce many popular components, it’s best to build your design system up slowly, as you’ll gain value in spending time to craft best-in-class assets. Your team will adopt these as your project grows.

What else does a design system have to offer?

Design systems offer way more than just components. It is a repository of best practices, user guides, and templates that create a way of working that ensures governance is understood and enough freedom expressed. Consider the similarities to Lego blocks – design systems offer infinite possibilities, freedom to express and scalability.

Finally, why should clients consider implementing a design system?

If you want consistency and efficiency, a design system is worth the investment. It ensures that your product growth framework is easy to access and maintain, a strategic win that makes sense if you believe in the product you want to make now and in the future.

We’ll be exploring the wonderful world of design for several weeks. So please keep a lookout for more interesting articles coming your way.