Creating a Design System: The Step-by-Step Guide


Design is more important than ever.

Companies fighting on the hyper competitive global software market can rely only on experience as a key differentiator. That puts enormous pressure on designers all over the world to take on more projects, deliver higher quality, and work faster.

But design doesn’t scale easily. Efficiency doesn’t emerge from thin air.

Scaling design through hiring, without putting standards in place, is a myth. With every new hire, new ideas for color palettes, typography and patterns appear in the product, growing the inconsistency and increasing the maintenance cost. Every new hire increases the design entropy.

There’s only one way to stop the growth of the chaos. Committing to running a design system process. Gradual growth of a design system equals gradual decline in consistency and speed of software development.

Design scales. But it scales only with a design system.

A design system is a set of standards for design and code along with components that unify both practices. Think of it as the same instructions and Lego kit for everyone.

If you’re a designer or a developer, then this guide is for you.

Built on the experience of creating an internal design system at UXPin and interviewing 40+ design and engineering leaders working on design systems, this guide helps you with every step of creating a design system (and includes bonus resources):

  1. Create the UI Inventory for the Design System
  2. Get Organizational Buy-In for the Design System
  3. Build a Multidisciplinary Design Systems Team
  4. Establish Rules and Principles for the Design System
  5. Build the Color Palette for the Design System
  6. Build the Typographic Scale for the Design System
  7. Implement an Icons Library for the Design System
  8. Standardize Other Style Properties
  9. Build the First Design System Pattern
  10. Run a Sprint Retrospective
  11. Conclusion
  12. Recommended Resources

It takes just one committed person to kick off the process and change the way your organization builds software.

Want a head start? Get the free Design Systems Starter Kit. It includes this guide as an actionable checklist, a deck for evangelizing design systems, and an ebook on why design systems matter.

Marcin Treder
Marcin Treder, CEO and co-founder of UXPin