Design System – Finding the right definition, driver, and scope for you

April 22, 2020

If your teams work with digital solutions, you need to consider how to best balance standardisation and a push for novel ideas. Design systems help you do just that.

What is a design system?

Design System is an umbrella term that’s established itself since digital became a mainstay of day-to-day operations. We’ve found it’s best to think of it as…

  • A platform that aligns an organisation around creating superb experiences
  • A service that supports a variety of teams in their everyday work
  • A collection of processes and resources that ensure relevant knowledge is shared efficiently across teams

When are we likely to need a design system?

  • Establishing a long-term vision for your products: Managing a design system requires taking a stance on what’s future-proof (brand, technology, design, business priorities). Compared to conceptual ‘vision’ presentations, a design system’s focus is on the most re-used assets that make up the majority of your services - and getting these into the hands of creators in the most convenient ways possible to start prototyping and learning.

  • Scaling up digital capabilities: A few teams may stay connected relatively easily. With more members and teams joining in, pressure on onboarding and alignment increases and can no longer be organised in the same ways as before.

  • Shifting from a product oriented to service led model: Whether you’re using digital tools for self-service or to power your client facing operations, these interfaces directly impact the quality you provide - and hence, the engagement you’re able to create in the long term.

  • Looking to renew your brand: Your product is an integral part of facilitating your brand. Traditional brand guidelines haven’t met the needs of digital teams, resulting in a gap. As a result, each and every team may end up spending extra time interpreting how to best translate high level core identity style definitions into the myriad of components, interactions, and UX copy. Without shared criteria and feedback practices, it’s very hard to agree which of these would be the best fit - and provide a harmonious experience.

What’s the right scope for us?

There’s no off-the-shelf answer to this. A design system can be…

We’ve found that companies new to design systems are by far more successful, if they start small, launch early, and work closely with pilot teams to ensure what’s delivered solves actual needs.

We’ve also found that companies with varied product portfolio management capabilities, limited alignment on future-proof technology choices, or simply too-low headcount to handle workloads tend struggle more when it comes to implementing a design system.

What’s next?

We were happy to see that the extensive work we’ve done in this area is being recognized. This February, Forrester stated Idean (part of Capgemini Invent) as one of recommended partners for Design System Initiatives.

We will be happy to schedule a meeting to discuss Design System and look at ways we can support you on your digital transformation journey.

Would you like to chat more? Email us!

Elisa Pyrhönen is Lead Service Designer at Idean Finland. For the past two years, she has been heavily involved in design systems and initiatives focusing on ways of working. In addition to working closely within three organizations on their journey, she has co-authored a book on the organizational impact of design systems. Her special skills also include doodling and knocking over water glasses.

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