Post by
Nasir Uddin
August 6, 2023
Last Updated
July 12, 2024
UI Design

Undoubtedly, design systems have become quite important to design and development teams in various fields. They got much attention from Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, Airbnb's design system, Uber's UI kit, and Facebook's design language. These systems act as a central hub for digital design, housing style rules, building blocks, and essential code components.

The interesting thing about design systems is they're not just for tech giants. Any organization that has an online presence can benefit from them. So, in our conversation today, we'll walk you through the process of creating your own design system.

But before we jump into that, let's first get a good grasp of what a UI design system really entails. 

Even though you won’t find a single design approach that works for all situations, you would need to start with a step on the correct path. It’s essential to remember that every design system is built differently.

With the entire team’s help, you can develop a design system by roughly following these steps:

Step 1: Begin with a Visual Audit

Audit all your existing reusable UI elements, including iconography, typography, color palette, interaction, and animation. Create a catalog of all these components. This will enable you to identify any missing elements.

Examine each catalog individually to ensure that you have all the necessary elements within each one. Subsequently, compile a list of any missing components. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What elements are required for your entire design system?
  2. What parts are absent in the existing system?

Once you've answered these questions, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Craft a Visual Design Language

Create a visual design language for your entire design system. The Visual Design Language is a shared and intentional visual vocabulary of patterns that provide a strong and unique identity. It is a set of visual, typographical, and interaction guidelines that help unify a product or brand's look, feel, and behavior. You’ll be able to achieve consistency and coherence across multiple touchpoints.

Doing so allows you to set rules for using user interface elements, such as colors, fonts, icons, and patterns in different contexts. An effective visual design language acts as your communication framework for your design system. Creating a visual design language takes an iterative process that requires validation at every step.

After successfully designing the visual design language, you are all set for the next step. 

Step 3: Develop a UI/Pattern Library

To create a UI pattern library, the first step is to ensure that your entire team is on board with the idea. This library will be a central resource for your design and development efforts, so collaboration is key. You'll want to establish a cohesive foundation by crafting a color palette, defining typographic elements, and compiling graphic design assets. These elements define the visual style and guide how patterns function and how they are implemented within the library.

One crucial aspect of your pattern library is its role as a definitive source of truth for reusable UI patterns. It should include responsive component guidelines, ensuring that your user interface remains consistent across various devices and screen sizes. This single-source approach streamlines the development process and promotes design coherence.

When initiating your pattern library, it's wise to kick things off with the most frequently used patterns, such as buttons and forms. These core components serve as the building blocks for your interface. As your projects progress and new patterns are needed, you can seamlessly incorporate them into your library. Remember to include the code snippets and any other documentation developers might need. 

You'll always have easy access to your UI pattern library with this comprehensive approach.

Step 4: Thoroughly Document Guidelines

This step is about thoroughly documenting the guidelines for using the above libraries and elements you developed. These guidelines include when, where, and why you need to use those elements. 

So, make comprehensive documentation with a specific guide. This will ensure the shared practice within the team, and everyone will be on the same page while working. Documenting the guidelines for a design system is important to enhance productivity and accuracy. It’ll also help you to avoid any sort of inconsistency. 

Step 5: Form a Multidisciplinary Design Systems Team

In this step, the first thing you need to do is assemble a multidisciplinary design system team. A design system always consists of a cross-functional team with specialists in various areas. These specialists in the team bring unique abilities that complement each other and combine to create the desired result. Multidisciplinary teams are crucial because they bring different perspectives to the table when solving a problem.

They also possess valuable insights, and they understand their users well. If the design system team has direct insight into end users, they can help fill the gaps in the user experience. Therefore, these insights need to be gathered from different teams. This type of team can work on all aspects of product design, from the initial research phase to the final product development.

To form this kind of team successfully, you must clearly understand your design system's resource requirements. To do this, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the scope of your design work?
  2. What types of projects do you intend to support with your team?
  3. What human resources are currently available for the design system?

Once you've answered these questions and aligned your team-building efforts accordingly, you'll be well-prepared to proceed.

Step 6: Establish Clear Design Principles

Creating clear design principles for your design system is a vital initial step when building your UI design system. It's crucial to have well-defined principles in place. To achieve this, you must understand your work's standards and vision.

Donald Norman has identified 7 design principles, but it's important to note that design doesn't conform to strict, universally accepted principles. Instead, you should establish principles that align with your preferences and work approach.

To ensure the highest quality for your clients, it's essential to establish these principles and maintain fidelity to them consistently.

Customer Behavior Dashboard design
Source: Musemind Dribbble

Step 7: Chart Your Project Timeline

Establishing a project timeline chart is essential in ensuring a seamless workflow and meeting deadlines effectively. It plays a pivotal role in optimizing the efficiency of your entire design process. To get started, prioritize your tasks and establish a timeline accordingly. This approach ensures that you tackle urgent projects first, ensuring a smoother workflow.

Think of a project timeline as a visual representation of time allocated to each component of your design project. As a designer, you should have a good grasp of the estimated time required for individual tasks. Additionally, it's equally important to stay aligned with the deadlines set for each task. You need to align all your projects to complete them within the estimated timeframe. After setting the timeline, you are all set to build your final UI design system. 

Step 8: Construct the Design System And Implement 

Now, let's get into the process of creating a structured design system using the seven steps we've covered. Constructing a design system means putting into action the steps we've previously discussed, following the correct flow. It's not just about implementation; it's also about adopting them as adaptable standards.

Utilizing this system can be incredibly advantageous as long as you use it correctly. To ensure the proper implementation of this system, it's crucial to steer clear of any inconsistencies. Inconsistencies can undermine the overall advantages of having a design system in place. Additionally, make sure to have effective collaboration while implementing the system.

Let everyone within the system know in detail about the system. Have multiple meetings and training sessions on your newly built design system. Keep everyone on the same page. Make sure everyone understands the system equally.

In this manner, you can effectively build a design system for a different type of website or app.

In conclusion

Well, as you now know about the basic concept of building a website design system, you need to personalize it according to your project needs. Keep in mind that this is a highly adaptable process, and various experts might approach it from different angles. It's essential to develop your unique perspective.

When it comes to creating a design system, there are no rigid, one-size-fits-all guidelines. Your approach should align with your work methods. Therefore, you'll need to brainstorm thoughtfully to determine a structure that aligns seamlessly with your individual projects or work methods.

Table of Contents
Nasir Uddin
CEO at Musemind
Nasir Uddin, Co-Founder and CEO at Musemind, brings over a decade of experience in dynamic UX design. With a background at prestigious companies like Panther, On Deck, Microsoft, and Motley Fool. His leadership has transformed Musemind into a trusted destination for comprehensive product design solutions.
See our
Related Blogs

Have a Project Idea?

Full Name
Company name
Service required*
Project budget*
Project details*
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.