Digital design systems strengthen brands. If they are done well.
Salina Gandji and Julia Freymark
October 14, 2021
‘Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.’ (Steve Jobs) For a digital application to work well, companies need an efficient design system. A kind of construction kit with which they can design their digital products in a consistent way. Across all touchpoints. UI designer Salina Gandji explains how design systems pay off for brands and how they influence the way we work together.
Julia: Emmet Connolly, Product Design Lead at the American software company Intercom, describes design systems as ‘large boxes with UI Lego bricks that can be assembled in an infinite number of ways’. Do you also see them like that?
Salina: For me, a design system is more like a kind of rulebook that describes the visual language of a brand. It is uniform and efficient, with a clear structure. Digital products such as websites or apps are designed using design elements such as the logo, colour, typography, interface components and design principles. Behind this there is always a concept and the desire to bring design and code, i.e. development, together. Therefore, a design system can also be called a single source of truth.
Julia: What are the advantages of digital design systems?
Salina: The biggest advantages are efficiency, quality and uniformity. With digital products in particular, companies need to create a consistent user experience. This is the only way they really stay in people’s minds. The design system helps by providing a uniform framework.
Julia: So a design system provides clear structures. Does this also create transparency between the design, strategy and editorial trades?
Salina: Absolutely. The design system provides us with orientation and, above all, the freedom to develop things further together. Once the design elements have been defined, we can work on product development and user experience. And also focus more on the content. As a UI designer, I am the interface between conception, design and development. For me, the technical restrictions are just as important as the needs of the users. That is why we work closely with the clients and developers. This improves the quality of the results and promotes collaboration. Above all, however, the brand benefits.
Julia: So good design systems strengthen brands through consistency?
Salina: Yes, that is the greatest fortification a brand can be given. Especially if it is active at different touchpoints or on third-party platforms outside its own environment. People and brands always belong together. Our goal is for users to perceive the brand intuitively and to build an emotional bond with it through recurring design elements.
Julia: How much freedom is there in a design system?
Salina: A digital product is never finished. That means there is a lot of room for manoeuvre. For me, this is the beauty of a modular system: I can design in a very ‘quiet’ way at one point and extremely ‘loudly’ elsewhere – through larger typography or stronger colours – depending on what the brand is supposed to express. In the end, it’s about designing in a consistent, efficient and focused way with a uniform language for the benefit of everyone.
Digital design systems in a nutshell. Three questions for Salina Gandji in this video.