Design Systems: Design Meets Development

June 4, 2024

Before design systems, there were design files, code, and a lot of repetition. 

Designers would design each product page and then pass the designs over to developers to build. This siloed process led to confusion and miscommunication. Designers would often create designs that weren’t feasible for the confines of the interfaces they were meant for, and developers would often misinterpret designs and build the wrong thing. 

This led to wasted resources and time spent on repeatedly solving the same problems, not to mention a ton of frustration. 

Streamlining the design process

Understanding that they needed to streamline their processes, designers and developers began to adopt style guides with approved, reusable style components. Each component stored physical design attributes along with the associated code. This allowed designers and developers to begin speaking the same language and thus working more efficiently together.

Design systems were born from the need for systematic design. 

The term “systematic design” may sound like an oxymoron because design is meant to be creative and free from structure, while systems create structure. However, it’s the opposite. 

Design systems create a structure so that designers can be as creative as their imaginations allow and still rest assured that every detail of their design can be brought to life via code on any digital interface.

Benefits of investing in a design system

As one can imagine, the benefits of implementing a design system are plenty.

Consistent user experience

A large part of Starbucks’ popularity is attributed to its consistency. The brand invests so much into ensuring consistency that its customers have come to expect it without even realizing it. 

Customers could order a vanilla sweet cream cold brew in Tokyo, have it taste exactly like it does in Chicago, and not think twice about it. This consistency brings trust, loyalty, and, most importantly, comfort to customers. Similarly, consistency in how users interact with digital products across different interfaces brings ease of use and comfort.

Collaboration boost

Design systems provide a common language for stakeholders involved  in product development. The structure provided by design systems helps everyone feel confident with the work they are doing, knowing that their piece will fit seamlessly into the whole puzzle.

Faster development time

This one is pretty straightforward. Design systems allow developers to set design parameters so that designers can create within these parameters. 

They also enable designers to create designs that are compliant with brand standards and communicate them in a way that developers understand. This streamlined process reduces the back and forth, and speeds up time to ship products and features.

What does G2 data say?

G2 reviews indicate design systems are quick to implement and quick to reach ROI.

G2 data shows that the average implementation time for products in the Design Systems Software category is 2 months, while the average time to ROI is 16 months.

These systems are quick to implement and relatively quick to realize value. Design systems can be used right away. However, they become more effective when a comprehensive set of all of an organization’s components and pattern libraries has been added. This takes time, but the beauty of a design system is that users can build upon it over time.

Design systems are not reserved for small players

While most design system reviews on G2 come from small business users, design systems can offer value to organizations of all sizes. 

Larger companies have more products, more customers, and more channels to reach their customers than smaller companies, so they face a tougher challenge when it comes to providing a consistent look and feel across all their brand touchpoints. 

In the same vein, the larger the company, the more important it is to preserve its brand equity because much of its value comes from brand recognition. Consumers will attribute a well-known brand to the values it stands for, eliciting trust and loyalty. 

However, a large part of building this trust and loyalty depends on how well the consistency of a brand is maintained throughout its products, across channels, and through the years.

AI will fill in the gaps

As is true for all software products, AI is redefining what is possible for design systems and making it even quicker for users to realize value. While AI can generate entire web pages based on parameter and preference inputs, it will probably play a bigger role in assisting with the design process in the near future. 

AI features will help to generate parts of web pages, such as images, text, and icons. It will also help to generate code from designs. And lastly, it will help to make design recommendations, based on design principles, brand guidelines, and what it knows about users from analyzing large datasets. Designers will still do the designing, and developers will still do the developing. AI will just fill in the gaps to make the process smoother.

If a company has a brand, it has something of value to preserve. While there are many factors that go into streamlining the product design and build process and effectively building brand equity,  organizing compliant reusable design components is one to consider.

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Edited by Sinchana Mistry

FI458_Learn_Article_Images-[Principles_of_design]_V1b Keep your assets organized!

Never let designs get lost in translation with reusable components and patterns with the help of design systems.

Design Systems: Design Meets Development Design systems have given designers and developers a common language so they can understand each other better, streamlining the development process.
Priya Patel Priya is a Senior Research Analyst at G2 focusing on content management and design software. Priya leverages her background in market research to build subject matter expertise in the software space. Before moving back to Chicago in 2018, Priya lived in New Zealand for several years, where she studied at the University of Auckland and worked in consulting. In her free time, Priya enjoys being creative, whether it’s painting, cooking, or dancing.