As simple as it may seem, there lies the archetype of a system upon which literally thousands of websites have been built.
Simply put: by rationalizing and codifying the design, it achieves systematization. Once that this is established, you can use that systematization as the basis to edify any design projects. Beyond design atoms, anything you can rationalize and codify should be included in your design system: type, colors, spacing, imagery, patterns, documented usage of the aforementioned, etc.
This is also applicable to brands, physical designs and many other fields of design.
In larger systems, components keep on building themselves, sometimes by compounding one another. For example on the Web: page templates & user flow, respectively based on multiple organisms and pages; sometimes by unique necessity, like in space design with signage.
So how should one think about design systems? In two main aspects:
- Systematization occurs in all designs; evolving as the design process continues.
- The level of sophistication those systems require is informed by the design process, as it unfolds.
From all the hype generated by design systems, one could gather they are only these deeply elaborate things. In reality, a system isn’t only a system when it’s super sophisticated. Harnessing the power of systematization as needed is only natural. Boosting consistency, speeding up the workflow and being instrumental in the elaboration of solutions to complex design challenges are only few benefits that design systems can bring, when needed.
That might mean only having a typescale with colors, though.Simply because, well that’s what your design requires. Some systems are sometimes so exhaustive that it seems like they’re not even holding the designer responsible for actually designing, instead only being responsible for implementing. That’s because these systems can be overly sophisticated for the challenges posed.
Let me be clear: Carbon and Material are great design systems. But one can easily notice by the implementation of Material outside of Google (and even from Google, from product to product) that it’s rarely used as it was envisioned. It’s most likely because people will use a tool as the way they need it, not the way the tool is supposed to be used.