Insights/ Created January 2023

Design Systems - why your company needs one. Now.

I think we need to have a little talk about what a design system is. Recently, an increasing number of agencies and companies have been setting up digital style-guides or hosting design components and branding them as design systems.

But a design system is so much more.


So then, what is a design system you ask?

Let me start by saying what a Design System isn’t - it’s not a component library or a Figma library or style guide… actually, it’s all of the above and so much more!

A Design System; often known as a Global Experience Language (GEL) is not a deliverable, but actually a set of deliverables that evolve constantly. This includes tangible elements like design and developer tools, patterns, components, and guidelines, as well as non-tangible elements like brand values, shared working methods, mindsets and shared beliefs.

What is the purpose of a design system?

The purpose of a design system is to create a source of truth that can be accessed by different stakeholders. A bridge of consistency between design and development for example.

Why do I need one, you ask?

We are told that it’s important to “live in the present”, enjoy the now and not fixate on the future. But when we are talking about design systems, I implore you to do the opposite.

In 5 years time where will your company be? Will you have multiple products that require updating, communications that need to be sent out and campaigns to execute? It’s much easier and more cost efficient to establish a design system now so that all of these future activities can leverage it - your future self will thank you! If done correctly, it will be the single most effective tool to improve the efficiency of how you create, maintain, and innovate digital experiences.

Design systems provide a number of benefits for companies, including:

  • ConsistencyA design system ensures that all designs produced by a company are consistent and adhere to the company's brand guidelines. This helps to create a cohesive visual identity for the company and makes it easier for customers to recognise the company's brand.
  • Efficiency: A design system can save time and resources by providing a set of reusable design elements that can be used across multiple projects. This eliminates the need to start from scratch for each project and can save a significant amount of time and money.
  • Collaboration: A design system can improve collaboration between designers, developers, and other stakeholders by providing a shared language and set of design elements that everyone can use. This helps to ensure that designs are aligned with the company's brand and design goals.
  • Scalability: A design system makes it easy to scale design across different platforms and devices, which is crucial for companies looking to expand their reach.


As design systems can help businesses to improve their design processes and achieve better outcomes, it's no wonder that many companies are starting to invest in them. Designer directors and marketing directors can play a key role in driving the adoption of a design system within their organisation and reaping its benefits.


There is a reason why companies are investing in design systems. Huge ROI has been seen over the board for example.

  1. IBM's design system, "Carbon," has led to a 40% reduction in development time, a 50% reduction in design inconsistencies, and a 20% increase in user satisfaction.

  2. Salesforce: After implementing their "Lightning Design System," Salesforce saw a 33% increase in user productivity, a 50% reduction in development time, and a 50% reduction in design inconsistencies.

  3. Airbnb’s design system, "Lottie," helped them achieve a 30% reduction in design inconsistencies and a 50% reduction in development time.

  4. Mastercard: Mastercard's design system has helped them to achieve a 20% reduction in design inconsistencies, 30% reduction in development time, and a 25% increase in user satisfaction.


Now is the time to invest, as the sooner you get started, the further ahead you will be, as more and more companies adopt this practice.

At Elephants Can Dance we support businesses, set up and manage robust and easy to use design systems. Our approach includes discovery, planning, strategy as well as set up and support. With extensive experience in various types of design systems, including those for large enterprises, multiple brands, and across various industries such as education, government, and airlines, we are well-equipped to support your business's needs.

Get in touch now, to see how we might support you with your design system project.



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