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Style guides and design templates have been around for a long time as a way to coordinate larger design teams, but the increasing interest in design systems indicates that these tools alone are not enough.

A “design system” is more comprehensive than those tools, providing a set of components and patterns that can be reused in different combinations. It may also include descriptions and guidance regarding usage, visual design, copy, tone of voice and how to integrate into the product portfolio. Design systems allow businesses to manage design at scale and reduce costs. Instead of tackling each design challenge in a new way, design systems save development effort with proven, pre-defined approaches that provide a seamless experience for end users.

With so many benefits, what could possibly keep teams and companies from defining and sticking to one design system?

The answer can perhaps be found in 19th century Prussian military wisdom, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” When different technologies, products, business units, acquisitions, and teams need to get on board with one design system, things can get complicated.

Our guests in this episode, Shawn Cheris, Director of Experience Design at Adobe, and Kai Richter, Chief Designer at SAP, discuss the process of establishing a design system, the benefits it brings, the challenges design teams face and strategies for overcoming those challenges.

Listen to this honest and interesting discussion from the show on June 25th, 2019: