Comparing Design Systems, Style Guides, and Pattern Libraries

How many way types of hamburgers could you make if I handed you Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, a bun, and ground beef?

Well, you could make a cheeseburger, a plain burger, a burger with tomatoes and no lettuce, etc.  The thing is you're really just creating different variations of the same thing with those five ingredients.  This is the basic principle behind a Design system.  Really a design system is just a collection of reusable components, guided by well-defined standards, that can be put together to build any number of applications.

Not a Style Guide alone

A Style guide and Pattern library are not a design system, but design systems often times will have a style guide and pattern library as a subset of it.  Style Guides tend to focus on a brand's visual identity and will include colors, fonts, typography, and more.  It is meant to help designers and developers refine the styles that will be used on a site.  This creates cohesion among products.  Drupal, Wordpress, and other similar systems can be developed to enforce or automatically apply style guide rules without content creators needing to think much about things.  This is powerful and a good reason why CMS applications are so widespread today.

A Good Design System is Important to your success

When you have several teams working together on a project, it is not uncommon that they will experience a case of "too many captains."  When too many people are trying to input design changes at the same time, it gets harder to track consistency across pages and platforms.  This can result in a poorly designed finished product or a confusing experience for your users.

Benefits of having a Design System

There are a lot of advantages of a design system.  One of the chief among them is that they standardize visual elements.  Teams can move a lot faster, and improve communication when they are all operating within a common design language.  

Additionally, there is also a bonus of having your brand continuity and functional consistency across all platforms that you are operating.  This can include your activities on social media, print, and video.  This all leads up to allowing you to build products more quickly. Freeing up designers to invest time in other critical areas like User Experience and areas where there can be improvements.

Design systems will allow your design and development teams to spend more time exploring, and less time recreating the same thing. Contact us today if you are looking to get started and developing a reliable design system for your team.

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