Building a design system is important because it allows you to scale your design once it’s ready for scaling. If you don’t have a design system in place, your design will either crumble or scale in ways that you won’t like.
Having a design system will help you set the tone on how your design should scale. This will correct the inconsistencies and other design problems that could arise if you don’t have a design system.
That being said, it’s important that you build your design system right off the bat. But first, what is a design system?
What Is A Design System?
Simply put, a design system is a set of standards and practices for your design and its processes. The main goal of design system is to help you scale without or lessening your chances of error or inconsistency.
You can think of design systems as a blueprint: if you have a blueprint at hand, you can certainly build your building from bottom to top effectively and efficiently. Above all, you can build it right! The same applies to design systems.
How to Build Your Design System
Now that you know what design system is and why they are important, let’s talk about how you can build a design system.
While building a design system is not necessarily easy nor even simple, it does not need to be complicated either. Here are the general steps towards designing your own design system.
1) Assess your current UI inventory
The first step in building your design system is to assess your current UI inventory. Specifically, check for inconsistencies and other problems to your elements such as colors, text styles, patterns and icons. Take note of your assessment, especially of the inconsistencies that you have noticed.
2) Let your team know about it
Once you have taken notes about the inconsistencies you have seen in your current UI inventory, your next step is to let your team know about it. Let them know about the inconsistencies and problems you noticed, and how all of you will work together to solve it by building a design system.
It is very important that your team jumps on board to your purpose simply because it takes teamwork to build a design system – and a unified one! Once your team knows about the job that will be done, it’s time to form a formidable team for the task.
3) Assemble a multidisciplinary team for building your design system
Once you got your people on board, it’s time to build or reassemble your team that will meet the needs of the project. Specifically, your team should compose of different skillset to build your design system.
At this point, you should identify which skills you will need for building your design system.
4) Set the standards, rules and principles for your design system
5) Build your design system’s color palette
Colors apparently play a big role in your design. Therefore, it is very important to decide on how your colors will work on your design. Decide on things such as your design’s primary color and a system that will be used when building accent colors.
6) Build your design system’s typographic guide
Aside from colors, typography also plays a role in your design. Therefore, just like with your color palette, decided the typographic features that you want for your design such as typefaces and typographic scale.
7) Build your graphic design assets
Finally, you should build your overall design assets for your design system. Make sure to put in all the design asset that you will need such as icons, photographs, illustrations, branding images, etc. The more components you place in your design system, the faster and more efficient your design system would be.
8) Finalize your design system’s standards
Finally, before getting to the actual building stage of your design system, be sure to finalize all the standards and prototypes that you will be using for your design system. Aside from the elements above, this would also include finalizing your grid styles and ensuring that other properties and elements are all set as well. But above all, take the time to eliminate all remaining inconsistencies that you had once in your previous design and inventory.
9) Build your first design system pattern
Building design system patterns is an iterative process. Do not focus on building all the patterns in one go. Start by identifying the best architecture for your pattern library and build it one by one.
Now, it’s time to build your design system. Work with your team and begin working on your design system pattern. By this point, you should have all the tools and reference points that you will need to establish your design system.
But what must be emphasized here is that, building your design system is an iterative process. This means that you should strive to build your design system one step at a time rather than building it all in one go. As you work on your design system, be sure that you and your team consistently checks the design system and see how it works. In case you spot errors, just fix and adjust as you go.
Building a design system is certainly not easy nor even simple. However, it should not be very complicated as well. By following these general steps, you should be able to work on your design system.
Lastly, the main point that should be emphasized is that, building a design system is a one-step-at-a-time process. So, don’t rush it. Take the time with your team as you work on your design system. Eventually, you’ll be able to completely build your design system.