Selling a design system

Andrew Couldwell
14 min readMar 5, 2020

To be successful with a design system, you need to learn how to teach the value of design systems — and to earn the support and trust of stakeholders

A book spread showing content related to selling a design system
Laying the Foundations by Andrew Couldwell

Designers romanticise design systems in countless articles online, and we make it sound so easy in our case studies. But the reality is:

  • They’re time-consuming to build and establish.
  • They take up a lot of development resources.
  • They distract from working on any roadmaps of features.
  • They’re tricky to maintain.
  • Designers can see them as a threat to their creativity.
  • And, they require a lot of stakeholder support to succeed.

Honestly, selling a design system could well be the hardest part of the process!

You need to convince a wide range of people — from the bottom to the top of the chain of command — that it’s worth it. And it is, but I just listed a lot of legitimate reasons not to create a design system! And these are just some of the reasons why you’ll be told: “No”.

To avoid being told ‘No’, you need to learn how to teach the value of design systems — and to earn the support and trust of stakeholders — or your design system is going to go nowhere.

Find your partner(s)

To illustrate this process, I’ll share an example from my real-life experience of selling design systems at a company.

At this company, I had a partner in crime called Nick Stamas. Nick had already started selling the idea of a design system before I came onboard. He had a smart approach: rather than lead with: “let’s create a design system!”, he gave presentations to a number of engineers from different product teams about the advantages of a centralised codebase, and promoted better collaboration between designers and developers.

I was only an observer at these meetings. As a fellow design lead at the same company, I had a vested interest in this presentation going well, and I was gauging the response from the attendees. I recognised that this was the type of support and interest we’d need — to inspire and to build — from a range of stakeholders.

Andrew Couldwell

Web designer & developer • Portfolio at: and