A mapped out path to an effective design system

Hylke van Maaren

So you're taking the first steps towards creating and implementing a design system? Great! We're here to guide you through the process, helping you craft a well-defined plan and outlining the essential steps required to develop your design system roadmap. By following these steps, you're not only preparing your organisation for growth but also setting the stage for delivering high-quality results while optimising your budget.

Building a Living Design System

Building and implementing a design system is not a project with a head and a tail. It's not a one-and-done effort. Instead, it's best approached as if you're crafting a dynamic product, one that will continually require maintenance and evolve to become an integral part of the organisation. To truly succeed, you need a dedicated team of individuals who are committed to the system's ongoing development and upkeep.

So let's look at the steps to follow:

Prepare Phase

  • Assessment and Alignment: Begin by gathering key stakeholders from design, development, and product teams. Ensure everyone is on the same page about the need for a design system. Discuss the specific pain points and inefficiencies experienced due to the absence of a design system.
  • Define Objectives: Clearly define your goals and objectives for the design system. What problems are you trying to solve? What benefits do you hope to achieve, such as increased efficiency, consistency, and improved user experience?
  • The Baseline Measurement: In the initial stages of the design system creation process, it's crucial to establish a baseline measurement. This measurement sets the foundation for evaluating the system's effectiveness against key performance indicators (KPIs) in the future. Without this baseline, it becomes challenging to track the impact and improvements that the design system brings to your organisation's design and development processes.
  • Scope and Roadmap: Make sure to treat your design system as a product and follow similar steps like defining MVP scope and a roadmap to success.
  • Resource Allocation: Allocate the necessary resources, including budget, time, and personnel. Identify a dedicated team or individual responsible for spearheading the design system initiative.
  • Governance and Maintenance: Establish a governance model to maintain and evolve the design system over time. Define roles and responsibilities for ongoing updates, additions, and changes to the design system components.
  • Inventory and Audit: Take stock of your existing design assets, components, and patterns. Conduct a thorough audit of your current digital products to identify areas where consistency is lacking and where a design system could make the most significant impact.
  • Design Principles and Guidelines: Develop clear design principles and guidelines that will serve as the foundation of your design system. These should cover everything from typography and color schemes to spacing and interaction patterns.

MVP Phase

  • Define Design Tokens: These are platform-agnostic values for primary styling and enable a design system to have a single source of truth. Tokens allow for consistent design across different platforms and technologies, and can be used to generate CSS, iOS, and Android code, among other things. Aligning on token naming conventions with development is therefore advised.
  • Component Library Creation: Build a comprehensive library of reusable design components for the MVP. This includes buttons, forms, navigation elements, and any other UI elements commonly used across your products. Ensure these components are well-documented and easily accessible.
  • Testing and Iteration: Pilot the design system with one or more product teams. Gather feedback and make necessary adjustments based on real-world usage. Iterate on the design system to ensure it meets the evolving needs of your organisation.

Rollout and Implementation Phase

  • Documentation: Create comprehensive documentation for the design system. This should include guidelines on how to use each component, design principles, and code snippets for developers. Make this documentation easily accessible to all team members.
  • Training and Adoption: Provide training sessions and workshops to ensure that all team members understand how to use the design system effectively. Encourage its adoption by highlighting the benefits it brings to their workflow.
  • Integration with Workflow: Seamlessly integrate the design system into your product development workflow. This might involve integrating it with design and development tools, version control systems, and continuous integration pipelines.
  • Monitoring and KPIs: Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the impact of the design system. Monitor these metrics regularly and use them to make improvements and demonstrate the value of the design system to the organisation.
  • Evangelise and Iterate: Continuously promote the design system within your organisation. Encourage feedback and iterate on the system to ensure it remains relevant and beneficial as your digital products evolve.

Remember that implementing a design system is an ongoing process. It requires commitment and adaptability as your organisation and products grow and change. However, when done right, a well-implemented design system can lead to significant improvements in efficiency, consistency, and overall user experience across your digital products.

Need help?

This might come across to you as a daunting project, especially when it comes to getting buy-in within your organisation. But rest assured, you're not alone in this journey. We're here to support you every step of the way.

In fact, we've successfully implemented design systems for a wide range of organisations, from large multinational corporations such as Signify, to nimble scale-ups with small, tight-knit teams, to the city of Amsterdam. So, you're in good hands, and together, we'll navigate this path to help you create and deploy with confidence. We also learned that once a design system is up and running, new difficulties arise. How to deal with ownership? How to design for maintenance? And how to keep your system supported at all times? Surely, after implementation there is even more to keep an eye on. Read all about that in our blog on making a design system work at scale.

Do you have questions or need some advice? We are happy to think along, just reach out to us!

Hylke van Maaren
Creative Director

De whitepaper downloaden

Dank je wel! Je download zou moeten starten.
Oeps! Er is iets misgegaan tijdens het verzenden van het formulier.

De whitepaper downloaden


We voegen je toe aan de lijst met ontvangers
Oeps! Er is iets misgegaan tijdens het verzenden van het formulier.
Let us guide you on your way to building a great design system.
Get in touch today

Nieuwste whitepapers


Dank je wel! Je inzending is ontvangen!
Oeps! Er is iets misgegaan tijdens het verzenden van het formulier.
Toestemming voor cookies

Door te klikken „Accepteer”, gaat u akkoord met het opslaan van cookies op uw apparaat om de navigatie op de site te verbeteren, het gebruik van de site te analyseren en te helpen bij onze marketinginspanningen. Bekijk onze Privacybeleid voor meer informatie.