Stop using other people’s design systems

A design system isn’t like a code of ethics. It’s more like a set of company values.


Design systems are so hot right now. With companies like Google, IBM, and Apple making their design systems public, companies big and small seem to be racing to publish theirs as well. There’s been a lot of talk about why you should incorporate these systems into your projects.

Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Design systems should be internal.

A design system, like a style guide or a pattern library, is an internal tool. It’s a set of documentation and components that a company uses to build their product. Why are people making their design systems public? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe because everyone enjoys a good peek behind the curtain of someone else’s operation.

A design system isn’t like a code of ethics. It’s more like a set of company values. It’s good for everyone to share the same ethics. But it’s not necessarily appropriate for every company to share the same values.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to see people being transparent with their processes; I believe in open source and knowledge sharing. But a design system isn’t a typeface or a stock image. It’s not a product. It’s not an asset. It’s not made to be customer facing. It can be, but that’s not its purpose.

There is no “one size fits all” design system.

If template systems worked for every use case, we’d all be using Bootstrap. Material Design works well for Google. Know why? Because it was developed by Google for Google. They didn’t create it for you. They created it for the people who use their products. And then they published it. Every company who has followed suit has done the same thing. MailChimp didn’t set out to build a design system template for everyone in the world to use. They made something for their users and then shared it.

I’m not really sure why everyone’s so keen on publishing their design systems and encouraging everyone to use them. It’s like telling the world the solution you came up with for your users is so vanilla, literally anyone can use it.

A design system should be a custom solution, tailored to your users’ needs. It should be the product of the design process, built on data, testing, and iteration. It may work for other people as well; Google has proven that theirs does. But it won’t work for everyone.

Public design systems should be learned from, not copied.

The best way to view public design systems is as an educational tool. It’s some company saying, “This is how we do design.” There’s a lot to be learned from taking a look at someone else’s internal system, but that doesn’t mean you should copy it wholesale, even if they suggest you do.

Lots of companies have publicly shared branding guides. That doesn’t mean they want you to mimic their logo or use their color palette on your next project. The best thing you can learn from public design systems is how to make your own. Look at the types of interactions they’re designing for, the types of modular components they’re building, the kind of thought put into their documentation. Then make your own, if it’s appropriate.

In Summary

Design systems are a useful and important tool. And companies like Microsoft, Atlassian, and Shoppify are doing a good thing by demonstrating their usefulness and setting examples for how to create them. But no design system will work for everyone. So let’s stop using other people’s solutions as our own.


Article written by : Alex MacDuff

Original Post : Visit 

Aahed I. Zarouk

Author Aahed I. Zarouk

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