I was chatting with a friend about my work and how I help organisations create a scalable design process across multiple channels and platforms. As I explained the concept of a design system for digital product designers, I found myself drawing parallels to something quite tangible – building a house. Just like a well-designed home provides structure, consistency, and functionality, a design system offers a robust foundation for designers to craft cohesive and user-friendly digital products.
Let's explore this comparison and how a design system is like constructing a house from the ground up.
1. Blueprint and architecture: crafting the vision
Just as a house begins with architectural plans, a design system starts with a blueprint outlining its core components, guidelines, and principles. These plans serve as a reference point for designers and developers, ensuring everyone is aligned with the overarching vision.
2. Foundation and core elements: establishing stability
A house's foundation is paramount for its stability. Similarly, a design system establishes a solid foundation with core elements such as typography, colour palettes, icons, and buttons. These elements provide a consistent visual language designers can utilise across various projects, creating a sense of familiarity and cohesiveness.
3. Framework and structure: crafting layout and organisation
Just as the framework of a house determines its layout and organisation of rooms, a design system defines the structure of user interfaces. Grid systems, layout guidelines, and spacing rules help designers arrange elements aesthetically pleasing and intuitively.
4. Materials and components: building with reusability in mind
Much like a house is constructed using specific materials, a design system equips designers with predefined components. Similar to a house's doors, windows, and walls, these components act as reusable building blocks for crafting interfaces. Examples include navigation bars, cards, modals, and more.
5. Consistency and cohesion: the art of unity
A well-designed house maintains consistency in its architectural style. Similarly, a design system fosters design consistency by ensuring that the same visual and interaction patterns are followed throughout a product. This consistency enhances user experience and gives the product a unified feel.
6. Functionality and features: crafting usability
Just as rooms in a house serve specific purposes, features like plumbing and electrical systems ensure functionality. In a design system, usability guidelines and interactive components (think form elements and buttons) enhance the usability of digital products, ensuring they're visually pleasing and user-friendly.
7. Customization and personalisation: tailoring to fit
Homeowners personalise their houses with furniture and decor. Similarly, designers can customise the design system's components to suit the specific needs of their projects while still adhering to the overarching design principles.
8. Maintenance and updates: nurturing over time
Like a house requiring maintenance over time, from fixing leaks to updating paint, a design system needs ongoing care to adapt to evolving design trends, technological changes, and shifting user needs.
9. Collaboration and communication: A unified effort
Constructing a house involves collaboration between architects, builders, and homeowners. A design system fosters collaboration among designers, developers, and other stakeholders by providing a shared language and guidelines for crafting consistent designs that align with the overall vision.
10. Long-term value: an invaluable asset
Just as a well-built house appreciates value, a robust design system becomes an invaluable asset for an organization. It accelerates design and development processes, reduces inconsistencies, and enhances user experience.
A tangible analogy for stakeholder buy-in
Translating the concept of a design system into the metaphor of building a house can be a powerful tool for gaining stakeholder buy-in. Explaining technical design concepts can be challenging, especially for non-designers or those unfamiliar with the digital realm. By likening it to something universally understandable, like building a house, you provide a relatable context that simplifies complex ideas.
Consider presenting this analogy during meetings or discussions with stakeholders. Explain that just as a well-constructed house offers stability, comfort, and a seamless living experience, a design system ensures consistent, user-friendly digital products that can be scaled across various platforms. This relatable comparison can bridge the gap between the technical and non-technical, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the value of a design system.
Ready to design your digital future? Let's chat
If you're intrigued by creating scalable and consistent user experiences through a design system or considering redesigning or implementing a design system within your organisation, I'm here to help.
Let's have a conversation about your goals and challenges. Whether you're seeking advice, guidance or want to brainstorm ideas, I'm just a call away. Book a call with me, and together, we can navigate the exciting journey of crafting exceptional digital experiences.
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