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.