Exploring The Anatomy of a Design System
A design system can be a powerful asset that brings efficiency and consistency to digital interfaces while empowering organizations to creatively connect with their key audiences. It can also unite internal disciplines around shared goals. But “design system” is still a term that means different things to different people—even within the same organization. It’s hard to work toward a shared vision without a common understanding of what makes up a successful system.
The Anatomy of a Design System defines the layers and parts of effective systems to help design system creators and subscribers come together around a shared concept and vocabulary. Once you have the basics under your belt, you’ll have the tools you need to align your team and evolve your system successfully.
What’s The Anatomy?
The Anatomy of a Design System
Some may think of a design system as just a collection of components. It’s much more. In this article, Ben Callahan explains how design systems connect core brand elements with digital interfaces, enable consistent brand expression, and encourage collaboration.
UnConference: The Anatomy of a Design System
Sparkbox held a virtual learning event focused on The Anatomy of a Design System. Watch as Ben walks you through the Anatomy layers and parts, and Kasey joins in to provide real-life examples of how the Anatomy applies to popular design systems.
The Anatomy in Action
It’s very unusual for a design system to be created in its entirety as a single project. Rather, a system may begin with just a few people solving a small problem, or a roadmap that encompasses a phased approach over a year or more. But once you’re familiar with the Anatomy model, you’ll see how it can influence and inform decision-making over time.
How Much of a Design System Do You Really Need?
Not every organization can tackle every single piece of the design system puzzle starting on day one. What if a more streamlined approach is right for you? This article will help you understand how to set your plans and priorities.
Why Your Design System Needs a Documentation Site.
For many organizations, a documentation site is the first application of the design system. The usability of the docs site helps demonstrate the value in the system and can help build trust and grow your user base.
When NOT to Use a Design System
The Anatomy illustrates the potential power of a design system. But we understand that it may not make sense for every organization. This article gives honest feedback about when a design system may not make sense.
Keeping Subscribers Engaged in Your Design System
This article was written before the Anatomy model was created, but you’ll already see the echoes of the model: documentation, process definition, and user engagement. Learn how elements like these can create a successful system.
Working with Design Systems
Many of our client engagements at Sparkbox include design system work, whether it’s short-term consulting and advice or a years-long collaboration. You may find it valuable to understand how the Anatomy plays a role in assessing and planning for design system growth.
A New Design System to Meet Changing Needs
You can’t move forward until everyone agrees on where you’re going. We advised a Fortune 500 company to prioritize building a common understanding of what makes up a system while building a strong foundation and supportive culture.
Getting a Design System Unstuck
Sparkbox worked with a cloud communication platform to help identify risks and plan for design system success. Once again, we found that introducing and reinforcing a shared definition (like the Anatomy) was central to success as we understood it for this client.
Going Beyond The Anatomy
Creating a design system based on the common language from the anatomy is the start of building a larger systematic practice. Creating a subculture with your design system team and for those that utilize it is the next step to building a successful system.
The Cultural Impact of Your Design System
The technical and creative aspects of a design system are undoubtedly important, but they are only a part of the puzzle. Organizational culture, the subculture of a design system team, and the relationship between them is vital to the success or failure of a design system.
Stabilize Your Design System with Authority, Value, and Tradition
A design system is a living product with an ever-shifting set of goals and users. Our years of research and experience have identified three forces that act as stabilizers to build a long-lasting design system.
Design System Tools
You’ve learned a lot about design systems so far. Ready to roll up your sleeves? We can help with that too.
Sparkbox’s Annual Design Systems Survey
Sparkbox annually surveys design system creators, maintainers, and users to find out about their challenges and opportunities. This creates a clear picture not just of what Sparkbox has to say about design systems, but about what folks from throughout our community are facing and learning. We’re happy to share the results with all who are interested in learning more.
Design System Maturity Model Assessment
Design systems and their individual elements continuously evolve and mature over four stages. The Maturity Model intersects naturally with the Anatomy–helping you identify gaps and opportunities. Take our assessment to discover where your design system is and the steps you can take to move forward.