Before getting into the benefits of design systems, we first need to understand their rise to fame and underlying reasons why more than 60% of enterprise companies are thriving from having one. We’re not doing a full “Back to the Future” moment here, but we will illustrate the steps it has taken to get to where we are today.
To keep things simple, here are the three phases we’re going to take a look at:
- Brand books
- Style guides
- Design systems
The concept of branding began in 2,700 BCE with marking cattle… ok, we’re not going that far either, but branding and its documentation was popularized in the 19th and 20th centuries, whereby beautifully crafted bound books were the epitome of the brand. These often exquisite books were ingested by every employee that worked for the brand, their partners and even their consumers. They were the opportunity to share the company's vision, what they truly stand for and their beliefs. The brand books were full of inspiration, both in imagery and text, accurately portraying the brand and what it represents.
If brand books are the vision, style guides serve as the instructions on how to implement it. They take the brand’s aspirations and translate them into assets and guidelines. These guidelines typically encompass the fundamental elements of the brand, including the logo, typography, spacing, color, iconography, and image manipulation. It's to be expected that each page of these guides will contain visual examples of the assets, along with descriptive explanations about their usage, including explicit do's and don'ts.
Design systems fuse the concepts from brand books and style guides, seamlessly integrating them with actual design choices, code, and the implementation of a cohesive user experience. This transition goes beyond mere appearance and declarative statements, extending into the realm of pre-built user interface components, templates, and patterns of user experience and behavior. This progression shifts from look books and declarative statements to pre-built user interface components, templates, and patterns of user experience and behavior. Design systems are the modern representation of brand books and style guides, expanded and infused with the technology that serves your users.
The benefits that really matter...
Save on costs
Undoubtedly, have multiple product teams each operating in silos, focused on delivering features for the product or product areas they are responsible for. They’re all creating user interfaces and experiences within their distinct production environments. Consequently, they don’t all look and feel the same or part of the same product suite. This is where the design system steps in, ushering in the cost savings. Instead of wasting the time and effort required to keep building the same components and user behavior patterns over and over again independently, design system allow for the creation and maintenance from one central repository. No longer will time and, consequently, money be wasted on teams duplicating the same elements, creating uniformity and consistency.
Save on time to production
With the organization aligned and utilizing components and patterns from the design system, teams can dedicate more of their time to delivering features and functionality. This inherently reduces the timeline from research and ideation to production.
Improve customer satisfaction
With your design system operational, efficient, and autonomously providing components and patterns, a shift in focus occurs. Product owners, researchers, designers and developers now have the time to truly focus on the customer. Instead of investing time designing pixel-perfect comps, wireframes and prototypes, nearly from scratch each time, they engage in user feedback, ideation, and delivering solutions that match user requirements and align seamlessly with your brand.
A list of other awesome benefits
- Significantly diminishes design and technical debt
- Concentrated, productive, and efficient product teams result in enhanced morale
- Delivers a unified language throughout the entire organization
- Enhances brand reputation by providing consistent experiences
- Attracts and secures better talent within design and engineering
- Serves as an educational hub for onboarding new employees and third-party suppliers
Where Knapsack comes in
Knapsack's comprehensive platform eliminates the need to start from scratch. By streamlining the entire digital production process, significant cost savings are realized. For our enterprise clients, we see these savings amounting to millions of dollars annually. The seamless workflow integration empowers direct deployment to production, and centralizing all management processes reduces the time required to shift from concept to production. This efficiency, in turn, allows for a swift transition from concept to production, enabling a higher capacity to handle customer requests per quarter. As a result, customer satisfaction is greatly enhanced.
Understanding where to kick off your design system journey might seem overwhelming at first. Prioritizing and fostering a collective perspective, especially if this is your organization's first time structuring a design system, can seem like a big task. At Knapsack, our extensive experience shines through, having navigated numerous complex design systems. We're able to help you find the best path forward while sidestep potential mistakes, leveraging our invaluable insights. Don't hesitate to engage with our crew at firstname.lastname@example.org for a friendly chat about your design system aspirations.