A design system is a collection of reusable components, code, style decisions, content rules, and tools that work together to help designers, developers, marketers, and product managers build digital products with
consistency and speed. It should be easy to share, update, and adapt by anyone on the product team (and beyond!). It’s a living, growing, ever-changing library and it can be a lot of work to build and maintain.
Your Figma component file is definitely
essential for the design process, but it's not enough to be a design system on its own. What are the missing ingredients? Code and documentation!
"But I can grab the CSS
and markup from my Figma components!" you may say. Sure, but what about the platform-specific code that your app uses? What about tying that component's UI into the backend logic of your app? Are you sure you are implementing the component in a way that is consistent with the rest of your product? To be truly useful at scale, a design system needs to be available in the code context of your specific app's tech stack, and also live with documentation stating how to use it in a
consistent and on-brand way.
At the end of the day, when building digital products and experiences, production code is king 👑 You can grab basic styles from most UI design tools, but it will be missing the
code needed for implementation in your app, or it might even be incompatible without getting dev involved.
Creating and maintaining a true design system is an ongoing and expensive undertaking. You'll need designers, developers, and project managers
to keep it up-to-date and usable by the rest of the team. And then you’ll need to get buy-in from the whole company to actually use it! For most smaller apps and sites, a design system is probably overkill.
So, next time you hire product designers for
your shiny new app/site/software, instead of asking for a full design system, ask for a UI component library, or even just a UI style guide. That's probably all you need for now.