First Steps

It's important to start by thinking about all the people who need to be involved in order to achieve a successful outcome. At the beginning, it's more obvious to include designers and developers, and they should definitely be involved. But through our experience particularly in large organisations, it is important to engage many other people—like key business stakeholders—at the start of the process.

  • UX and Visual Designers

  • Developers

  • Content Strategists/Copywriters (for voice and tone)

  • Researchers (for insights, user testing)

We consider all of these profiles part of a Design Team. If your teams are structured differently that is fine, but we when we use the term "design team" we mean all of these profiles.

Additional (and important) Stakeholders

  • Leaders (VP's and directors, to champion the product throughout the company, including to executive leadership)

  • Business teams

  • Brand teams

  • Product teams

Don't panic. You don't have to include everyone when you start. Just keep in mind that a digital system is not only for designers & developers, and that many other people will benefit from the system or can help achieve its success. Don't forget to plan and include them at the appropriate phase.‌

Things to keep in mind as you start

  • Have a clear vision with short and long-term KPIs

  • Understand the company culture and how teams work to build product.

  • Assign a dedicated team of designers and developers to work on this together.

  • Identity one, real product to build the initial libraries—one that is important to the strategy of the company. Start small and impactful, then grow.

  • Define the product ecosystem to understand the scope of the digital system.

  • Clearly document all steps and decisions so that the system can be shared and used easily.

Identity one, real product to build the initial libraries—one that is important to the strategy of the company. Start small and impactful, then grow.

These design patterns will be shared and used throughout all digital products and therefore should be the very best UX/UI. If the quality of design needs to be elevated, this is the opportunity to achieve that while creating the digital system. Do not add anything to a digital system that you do not want reused throughout the company.

A system of systems

The goal is to develop one solution that can scale to all platforms. For this reason it is important to understand the amount of platforms that the digital system needs to cover. If your digital product is displayed across multiple touch points (web, mobile, TV, car, etc.) then you will want to think of the digital system as a family of design systems linked to a core foundation. It’s a framework that brings existing design systems under one brand—a “system of systems.”

Tier 1. Design Principles and Foundation System

The ecosystem extends from one global foundations library that defines patterns for all teams to use. The foundation library includes global patterns like brand color, type styles, motion, spacing, writing (voice and tone) and accessibility. It’s also where design tokens live. These are things everyone should use and is the minimum bar for every digital product.

Tier 2. Platform Systems

Platforms can have their own libraries that share common components for that touch point but that are also shared and accessible to all teams.

For example:

A web system offers all the things found in typical web design systems: buttons, dialogs, forms, controls, and more. These components can be used in anything that’s built using web tech—from web apps to websites. The web library has the shared resources for web-based platforms, but also includes everything from the Foundation system. The components are built using tokens, and they follow the patterns and guidelines defined in the Foundation system. This is what creates a connected system.

An app system is the place for common components that are shared across multiple mobile apps—mobile and tablet, iOS and Android. Again, it also includes everything from the Foundation system and built using the design tokens.

Tier 3. Local Design Systems

The platform can also have local internal libraries that have design elements tailored to a specific product or audience. These libraries are only shared with the teams working on these products or audiences. When one of these patterns or components becomes reusable and makes sense for other products, it can be migrated from the local library to a globally-accessible tier.


  1. Define the members who will work on the digital system, from all the teams involved.

  2. Implement initial workshop/s to define vision, roles/responsibilities, scope, workflow, tools, KPIs and principle project.

  3. Document all to be shared with entire team.

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