How a design system can strengthen your brand and business
In a world where the only constant is change and where the existence of channels, platforms, and media is only increasing, a challenge that ceases to exist is for brands to appear and communicate consistently. In the long haul, a tool for systematizing your company’s identity can be crucial for its ROI.
What is a design system?
Put simply; a design system is an easily accessible system containing your business’ identity and principles. The system is available to your team of developers, your marketing staff and your suppliers – just to name a few.
But what defines a company’s identity? Well, an identity covers everything your business transmits to its customers – what your shapes and colors are and how you talk and present your values. The same goes for the principles of navigation and the UI you apply to your products. In other words, it’s all about how your customers experience and utilize your products or services across channels and platforms – online and well as offline.
We use Zeroheights to create the Design System. Our design files are synced with Zeroheights which ensures that everything is up to date.
Why systematizing your design is a sound decision
In the late 1960s, a developer by the name of Douglas McIlroy invented component-based software engineering – something I know very little of! What I do know of is the challenge at the time; that software development just could not keep up with the development of the computer. A challenge that somewhat still exists today. One simply did not have the tools to scale along with the rapid development of the computer. Because of that, a way to structure the code better was invented.
Today, I regularly come across businesses that are inconsistent in their appearance across channels, platforms, and media – and I get it! The pace is high, and it demands that companies are always present in many different places. You need to have a website, an app, master digital marketing, nurture social media presence – not to mention the physical stores. If your customers continuously experience your brand differently, the overall customer experience is a confusing, untrustworthy one. Once your customer doesn’t trust your business, it will reflect on the bottom line.
Hence, companies today are required to scale their brand to be clear and consistent on several platforms and channels. If you don’t create a system or process for doing do, your brand might very well turn to chaos.
Another equally important advantage of a design system is increased efficiency in developing digital solutions since many existing components can easily be reused. Here’s an excellent article about increased efficiency during development.
Setting up a Design System won't fix your challenges overnight, but once the system is being used it will create value in terms of speed, reduced cost and consistency.
IBM Design is a phenomenal example of a design system, because it’s the very foundation for how the company develops software. Another example is Uber Brand, which is first and foremost driven by storytelling and product design.
We use Storybook to build UI components. These can be reused across platforms and this speeds up the development process and ensures consistency in the experience.
Start by making a review, then build the foundation
It might seem like an immense task building an entire design system, but it really doesn’t have to be. Start by taking an outside perspective. What is your language like across platforms and channels? What do you look like? Do you use the same colors, buttons, typographies, etc.? This might appear trivial, but most companies will find that there’s a large discrepancy in the user experience.
Build a system that makes sense to your business
Alright, let’s decide that there is an actual need for structuring your company’s identity to ensure consistency moving forward. Where do you begin? One way to get started is by answering a handful of fundamental questions:
- What will a system solve?
- Where are our main challenges found?
- Who will use the system?
- How many platforms must the system facilitate?
At Adapt, we build design systems for our clients – the big ones as well as the small ones. The Adapt Design System is the foundation for who we are, how we work, what we look like, and how we speak. We can tell from collaborating with our clients that a structured and component-based approach to design increases efficiency, flexibility, and consistency in the solutions we design. Get in touch if you want to learn more about how we can help systematize your design.
Anders Skov Pape
Creative Director & Partner