The components referred to are reusable, while the style guide outline how these components are to be used, such that they can be used to achieve a cohesive design for a company, which will then drive that company’s success.
More often than not, people think that a design system is either just a style guide, or a component library. Design systems are, however, much more than these two. In fact, style guides and component libraries are but sub-components of what design systems are. That is to say, design systems encompass both style guides and component libraries.
Style guides and component libraries
In order to gain a deeper understanding of what design systems are, it is important that we define what style guides and component libraries, which constitute design systems, mean.
Style guides: a style guide is essentially a set of standards which has been established to guide and direct the development of a digital product. It includes typographic scales, UI patterns, and color palette all of which are usually published and outlined in a static document.
Component libraries: component libraries are basically several UI elements gathered together for use in the development of digital products. These UI elements are reusable, and can, thus, be used across several sections of a particular product being developed. They help ensure that an app being developed is consistent all round.
The need for design systems arose out of a need for designers and developers on the same development team to have the same framework to use. The existence of such a framework will help eliminate the inconsistency that would otherwise exist in large projects without one. Before the advent of design systems, the development process involved designers creating UI designs for pages to be used in the development of a digital product. These designs are then handed-off to developers who, with the help of a product manager, separate the mock-up into several sections for developers on the team to work on. Working in such a manner, however, brought up a lot of issues majorly because of the fact that apps are dynamic. And since mock-ups were static, there was no proper way to account, and properly cater for the dynamic nature of mock-ups.
Design systems allow both developers and designers to surmount the problems that existed in development. With components that are reusable, and style guides that direct how they should be used, every team member was provided with a mental model of what to do.
How to build a design system
Building a design system for your organization involves several steps which are listed below.
- Audit your digital product
- Establish your visual design language (this refers to color, typography, sizing, spacing, and imagery)
- Develop a UI (pattern) library
- Create a documentation/standard for using each component
Design systems are quite important if your organization is to have one voice. And this is why you should endeavor to develop one as soon as possible.