Why Every Brand Needs a Design System & How to Build One

Learn how you can considerably reduce development time, increase efficiency, and improve revenue by investing in a cohesive and effective design system.

We all seem to know the value of design. Yet, design systems aren’t as widespread across businesses as they should be, given their benefits and advantages.

Moreover, design or marketing leads at times doubt the ultimate worthiness of a design system. Even though a well-implemented design system streamlines design and development processes, improves consistency across products and features, and enhances content delivery, its influence is not always particularly tangible for decision-makers.

Okay, we’ve all heard of consistent and engaging user experiences, but what’s so special about a design system for businesses?

47%

less time

Well, how about cost reduction? The Sparkbox test revealed how much faster it is to develop a simple form page with a design system versus coding it from scratch — 47% less time.

34%

more efficient

Efficiency? Another shocker: measuring the value of design systems, Figma found that designers who used a design system were 34% more efficient, equivalent to adding 3.5 additional designers to the team!

23%

revenue increase

And what’s all the hype around consistency? 39% of website visitors pay more mind to color than any other component of a site’s design. The stats, backed up by Forbes, say color consistency can improve brand recognition by up to 80% and help increase revenue by up to 23%. Impressive, huh?

What is the ROI of a design system?
estimated 135%
over 5 years

According to the Smash magazine case study.

What Goes Wrong Without a Design System?

Without a design system, website pages — or products generally — have inconsistent UI elements (color schemes, typography, button styles and sizes, etc.), noticeable to visitors. If you come across recently released features and pages on the site that visibly contrast with existing ones, you find a vivid example of an inconsistent user interface (UI).

Yet another indicator that your business aches for a design system is the repetitious need for UI component redesigns. Without unification, designers, whether in-house or outsourced, continually rework designs to suit new needs or preferences, leading to a lack of cohesion — essentially visual chaos.

Obviously, creating anything anew significantly slows down the development process. In this scenario, the never-ending back-and-forth between design and developers results in slow production speed. A sign your design operations are time-consuming and inefficient.

The Anatomy of a Design System

In such environments, one of the first things that leaps to the eye is a lack of reusable elements. Time and again, similar elements are repeatedly designed and developed rather than automated. Over time, this leads to difficulties in scaling. Painful and resource-sensitive as it is, your business’s design language and identity are both lost in visual clutter while requiring substantial investment to sort the matter out.

Speaking of resources, you may not realize that with no predefined rules and components, developers, more often than not, write custom code for styling and layout. Bloated codebases are like Pandora's box — something no one wants to open.

Without a common design language or set of guidelines, inefficiencies in collaboration between marketers, designers, and developers are so overwhelming that even simple interactions can become roadblocks.

Don’t grow overly stressed out — there is a solution to all of these problems!

Read more

How to Fix It: Building a Future-Proof Design System

The one thing to note when developing a design system is that it’s a step-by-step process naturally extended from existing style guides and pattern library practices.

Style Guide Audit

While thoroughly reviewing the style guide, brand guidelines, and any documentation related to design, we learn a lot about very prescribed brand-specific approaches to design. Solely style-focused businesses can miss out on the bigger picture.

That’s why, at this stage, our task is to spot inconsistencies and gaps, visual or functional. Plus, we have to make sure there’re no outdated practices that do not align with modern design standards and best practices.

Product Ecosystem Analysis

Afterward, we embark on a holistic product review, focusing on the interface, user experience, and overall aesthetic across multiple platforms and devices where the products are used. Based on the insights, we come to mapping design relationships — how products relate to each other and overlap in design.

Redundancies are to be eliminated or consolidated, depending on their nature.

Are we over? Far from it. To understand the needs and behaviors of users, we analyze user interactions. This reveals which design elements are highly interactive and which are overlooked — invaluable insights for guiding future design decisions.

Design Library and Style Definition

Coming up with a fresh design element typology can be super beneficial for businesses that have never gone through a brand redesign. Although recommended it’s not by any means mandatory. 

With the data collated from the previous phases, we work out and classify design elements, wrapping them up into a well-structured typology. From buttons, CTAs, and widgets to layout — this pool of design elements should be exhaustive.

Even more importantly, we establish comprehensive guidelines for typography, color schemes, imagery, and iconography, including all technicalities (sizes, spacing, responsive behavior). It’s worth noting that we do so to ensure consistency across all devices and platforms, not just the preferred one.

Lastly, we approach setting up a visual language that resonates with the brand and its values.

Design System Development

We build a design system by integrating the typology and style guidelines into a well-organized framework that teams can easily access and understand. There are many questions to be addressed in terms of accessibility, control, ownership, etc.

Moreover, the design system must be seamlessly integrated into the design and development ecosystem. To keep it well-managed, we advise running regular checks and updates to the documentation so that nothing gets lost.

Take care of onboarding materials to help new members get on the same page as others while effectively using, to the best of their knowledge, the power of your design system.

What else? Monitor and evaluate! Reviewing performance and implementing new technologies and best practices timely keeps your design system a dynamic, evolving living thing. If used properly, it can result in a cumulative — design and development altogether — ROI of 135%.

See Darwin at Work

Schedule a free 30-minute call with Darwin's Head of Design to brainstorm and fire off questions or ideas about the project you're racking your brain about. In this session, you'll gain a design concept idea developed on the spot, providing a solid starting point for your design journey.

We’ll help you with
  • → Aligning design goals with business objectives.

  • → Setting impactful on-page design targets.

  • → Reviewing current design trends and best practices.

  • → Conducting on-the-go design brainstorming and ideation.

  • → Hosting a Q&A for design alignment.

Develop Design Ideas Further Your Way

You’ll receive a recording swiftly after the call to expand on our Design Lead's ideas. From there, you can share it with your design teams or begin crafting your own design strategy and concept — it’s entirely up to you how you benefit from the 30-minute session!

Schedule a Design Concept Idea Call
Get ready for a productive session:

Use a page (URL) or template as a reference.
Prepare questions to ask.
Define your page objectives (e.g., conversion, leads, sales).

Read also