Introduction to Design Systems

A design system is a tool that allows teams to establish patterns in order to build digital products. These patterns are derived from a series of elements that are reused to achieve consistency and time efficiencies. The system is built to be modular, allowing elements to scale and support the most basic to complex functionalities (the same way the modular Billy shelf can be combined in very different ways to support different functionalities).

A Digital System is a set of connected patterns and shared practices, coherently organised to serve the purpose of a digital product.


A digital system creates a common language between the design and development teams, defining rules that that are grounded in a clear set of principles:

Solutions should work for the smallest to largest projects and teams.

Common patterns are what creates the time efficiencies and quality assurance.

Clear guide rails that enhance not limit growth and innovation.

Decisions need to be made considering the company culture and digital ecosystem.

The use and performance of the system has to be tracked in detail in order to prove its value with real data.

A scalable, dynamic tool

A digital system is flexible and continually evolves based on business objectives, user testing, industry trends and innovation. This is the main difference between a style guide and digital system—a digital system is scalable and dynamic. As opposed to handing off a style guide at a certain point in time, in digital systems, the collaboration between designers and developers is ongoing. To that point, we always recommend that a digital system be treated as an ongoing product instead of a fixed project within a company.

This tool is increasingly adopted by teams who support the agile methodology, allowing companies to build faster and save a lot of time and money.

We always recommend that a digital system be treated as an ongoing product instead of a fixed project within a company.

What value does it add?

Using a digital system and its defined patterns ensures the consistency of products across all design and development teams, both internal and external.

This improves the user experience and significantly shortens time to market and time to fix bugs. Digital systems are essential for scaling product efficiently across teams and business units. And most importantly, all this means more time innovating and more money saved.

Main benefits of having a Digital System

The most evident business benefit is efficiency—in time and money—but a digital system will help any organisation:

  • Create time efficiencies

  • Ensure accessibility

  • Foster autonomy and speed

  • Scale product

  • Reduce risk

  • Make data-driven decisions

  • Onboard new members

  • Innovate

  • Manage the backlog

  • Ensure product consistency

  • Develop one common language

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