Design Systems have become a key part of my everyday work… And from discussions around me, it seems that it is now the case for a lot of people ;)
After reading Alla Kholmatova’s book last year, I was lucky to attend the first European conference on the subject in March. All of this strengthened my conviction that, in the future, every brand and every product will use a Design System, simple or comprehensive, strict or loose, mono or cross platforms…
What is a Design System?
I keep hearing various definitions, so let me start by saying what a Design System isn’t: it is not a Sketch library, no more than a Style guide or a Pattern Library… Actually, it’s all of this and so much more!
A Design System is the single source of truth which groups all the elements that will allow the teams to design, realize and develop a product.
So a Design System is not a deliverable, but a set of deliverables. It will evolve constantly with the product, the tools and the new technologies.
As Jina Anne describes perfectly in this conference, the System is composed of tangibles and non-tangibles elements :
Tools for designers & developers, patterns, components, guidelines…
But also -and it’s often the most difficult thing to achieve- some abstract elements such as brand values, shared ways of working, mindset, shared beliefs…
Style Guide or Pattern Library: what’s the difference?
As it should be clear for you now, the Style guide and the Pattern Library are just some of the deliverables of a Design System.
A Style Guide -as indicated by its name- will focus on graphic styles (colours, fonts, illustrations…) and their usage.
A Pattern Library will integrate functional components and their usage.
Most of the current Design Systems contains both, just as Shopify for example which as one tab “Visuals” for its Style Guide and one tab “Components” for its Pattern Library