Understanding a design system is key in the ever-evolving field of user interface design. A design system is a comprehensive collection of reusable UI elements acting as a single truth source for a consistent digital experience. Companies like Google, Apple, and Shopify use design system examples to optimize development, ensure consistency, and drive innovation. In this guide, we break down the essence of design systems and explore real-world examples that are shaping the digital landscape.

Who is this article for?
For designers, developers, and businesses navigating the complexities of modern UI.
Key takeaways
  • The concept of the design system.
  • The basis for consistency, clarity, and innovation in design processes.
  • Ficus Technologies Solution: Integration for efficient, consistent, and innovative design systems.

What is a design system?

What is a design system?

A design system is a comprehensive collection of reusable user interface elements that form the basis for a consistent user experience in digital products. Acting as a “single source of truth,” it encompasses various components such as code snippets, design files, and style guides. More than just building blocks, a design system serves as a design philosophy that guides product and design teams to work in a coordinated manner. Examples of design system leaders include Google, Apple, Atlassian, and Shopify.

The importance of design systems

Why is a design system crucial? It is the backbone of product teams, ensuring consistency, clarity, and quality in the design process. A powerful competitive advantage emerges. This system becomes a powerful remedy for the growing headache of design debt – the result of sacrificing long-term goals for short-term gains, resulting in a disjointed user experience. A well-implemented system design eliminates inconsistencies by offering standardized components for a predictable and user-friendly product. This saves time by promoting a common design language that speeds up the workflow. Ultimately, the design system improves overall usability by reducing cognitive load and ensuring a seamless user experience.

Design System Components

Implementing the key components of a design system is the path to unrivaled success. By integrating a robust design system, companies optimize processes, ensure consistency, and foster collaboration. This systematic approach speeds up development, facilitates testing, and provides a common language that fosters innovation. Industry giants such as Google and Apple stand as design system examples, demonstrating that these components are not just tools but strategic assets that drive companies to excellence.

Component Library

In the world of design systems, a component library is an important set of user interfaces. It contains reusable UI components, each of which serves a specific interaction or interface purpose. Carefully designed to harmonize, components such as avatars, icons, and others work seamlessly together in a design system to provide an intuitive and cohesive user experience. This integral aspect of system design ensures efficiency and consistency in creating effective digital products.

Pattern Library

In a complex design system, a template library is a real treasure. It organizes unique combinations of components to provide an intuitive and consistent user experience. These design templates, such as the vertical drop-down menu, strategically address the challenges faced by large websites by providing seamless, clutter-free navigation. In the grand tapestry of system design, a well-managed template library becomes the key to an innovative and harmonious digital experience.

A design system acts as the connective tissue that holds together your entire platform.

Drew Bridewell

Brand Style Guide

At the heart of effective system design is a brand style guide – a roadmap for the company’s visual identity. Defining the look and feel, it carefully outlines the color palette, fonts, logo variations, and image types. It serves as a beacon of consistency, ensuring that every touchpoint resonates with the brand’s essence. In the vast world of design systems, a brand style guide is a compass that guides a unified visual narrative.

Brand Values

An integral part of a brand’s identity is the brand values, which serve as guiding principles, uniting teams and design within the company. These overarching ideals shape every design and content decision, ensuring alignment with brand goals. Brand values influence the user experience more than guidelines, dictating how users should feel when interacting with a brand. In the dynamic landscape of system design, they are the North Star that points the way to a cohesive and effective brand presence.

Design Principles

Design principles, which are inherent in most design systems, are guidelines that facilitate alignment and meaningful decision-making across all teams in an organization. While brand values focus on the overall brand identity, design principles focus on products, defining their visual essence. They provide a common language, ensuring that, regardless of individual approaches, the end result is seamlessly aligned with the core goals of effective system design.

Icon Library

Located in a comprehensive design system, an icon library is a repository of visual symbols, each with a unique meaning. These symbols go beyond mere representation; they guide users by prompting action or highlighting important information. As visual signposts of effective system design, the icons in this library play a key role in creating a cohesive and intuitive user experience.

Content Guidelines

In a design system, content guidelines are key in ensuring a harmonious user experience. In addition to visual consistency, they dictate a consistent voice and tone, grammar, mechanics, and inclusivity. Across the vast landscape of system design, these guidelines cover what words to use, when to use them, and how to create bug reports and user experiences, forming a unified and effective narrative.

Accessibility Guidelines

Modern design systems prioritize accessibility guidelines to emphasize the importance of an inclusive approach. According to these guidelines, an accessible product provides a consistent and adaptable user experience for everyone, regardless of their abilities or situations. These guidelines carefully consider the needs of different groups of users with disabilities, serving as a cornerstone for conscientious and inclusive system design.

Design Tokens

Design tokens are the foundation of a design system, representing hard-coded values for important elements such as spacing, color, and typography. They cover various aspects, from color and font to opacity levels and ease of animation. By replacing absolute values such as hexadecimal codes, RGB values, and Bezier coordinates, design markers provide consistency and flexibility across platforms, whether it’s Android, iOS, or the web. They are dynamic elements that form a cohesive and responsive brand presence within a well-structured system design.

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Benefits of Using a Design System

Implementing a strong design system goes beyond simply improving communication and efficiency; it changes every aspect of the design process. Speeding up development, optimizing processes, and creating a common language are some benefits. This systematic approach simplifies testing and positions your work for future innovation. These transformational benefits underscore the crucial role of well-thought-out systematic design in today’s design landscape.

  • Faster Development and Iteration

At the heart of system design is achieving speed. A well-structured design system achieves this by offering pre-written, reusable code that significantly reduces technical debt. This transformative approach empowers design and development teams by eliminating the need to start from scratch for each iteration. With the reins of innovation firmly in hand, the path to faster development and iteration becomes the hallmark of a successful design system.

  • Streamlined Process

In the field of system design, efficiency is not just a goal; it is a defining attribute. A well-constructed design system streamlines the entire design process. By centralizing design elements, designers can easily access and integrate components into their work, reducing design fatigue and fostering inspiration. This approach shifts the focus from mundane details to higher design challenges, paving the way for a truly streamlined and innovative process.

  • Shared Language

Different points of view within a company can lead to communication problems. Implement design systems by creating a common language. This shared vocabulary, uniquely identified in the system design, facilitates effective collaboration. Each element of the system is clearly labeled to ensure clarity and consistency. This common language transforms collaboration by aligning different perspectives to achieve a single, effective goal. The beauty of effective design system examples lies in their ability to create this unifying linguistic thread.

  • Easier to Test

Testing in a design system is a game changer. It allows for precise A/B testing of templates and design components, eliminating the need to dissect entire pages. The analytical advantage extends further by tracking user interaction with individual design elements. This strategic approach, exemplified in leading design system examples, provides data-driven insights, driving continuous improvement and unprecedented testing experiences in the broader system design industry.

  • Future Friendly

Design systems are inherently future-oriented, adapting to the needs of the brand. The difference is whether the system is focused on consistency or coherence. While consistency implies homogeneity, coherence emphasizes the relationship between elements. A cohesive design system allows for the flexible expansion of components to meet diverse platform requirements. It’s this adaptability, showcased in forward-thinking design system examples, that allows the system to constantly evolve in the dynamic landscape of system design.

  • More Time for Innovation

A design system unleashes creativity by eliminating redundant problem-solving. Without it, you may end up with numerous templates solving identical problems. A robust system design alleviates this problem by redirecting efforts from repetitive problem-solving to disruptive innovation. This strategic shift allows for the creation of new components and templates to solve complex problems. This shift is evidenced by a well-implemented design system, exemplified by pioneering design system examples.

Why do you need design systems?

Why do you need a design system? The benefits are numerous. A well-constructed system design ensures consistency by ensuring that UI elements are identical for all designers through a style guide. This optimizes efficiency by eliminating unnecessary design and coding efforts. The system’s flexibility makes it easy for new team members to adapt. Standardization achieved through the design matrix becomes a single reference point for UX and UI solutions. Noteworthy in leading design system examples, these advantages are particularly valuable for larger design teams, preventing chaos, reducing costs, and saving time. The absence of such a system leads to disorder, inefficiency, and duplication of effort.

How to Build a Design System

Creating an effective design system requires a dedicated team and careful evaluation of the available components. Thoughtful questions about their appropriateness and purpose are crucial. Integrating a design system, which often requires a complete rebuild, is best done in parallel with important projects, such as a redesign. This strategic approach ensures a system and a comprehensive evolution of components that embody the essence of successful system design.

Understand the context

Understanding the context is paramount at the first stage of creating a design system. Whether you’re creating a highly functional software system or an expressive marketing system, understanding the purpose and needs of users is fundamental. Software focuses on functional processes such as transactions, while marketing emphasizes expressive content and storytelling. This initial understanding guides the targeted development of the components needed for a customized and effective system design.

Take inventory of everything that you have

In the second stage of building a design system, inventory is crucial. Understanding the context precedes this stage, and now it’s time to catalog design patterns, processes, and tools. Careful mapping of existing design patterns provides insight into what works well and needs improvement. Armed with this knowledge, creating a design system that incorporates successful patterns becomes the next strategic step in the evolution of holistic and effective system design.

Break down each piece for analysis

In the third stage of building a design system, the key step is to dissect each component. This careful analysis reveals each component’s scalability, frequency of use, and diverse use cases. Understanding the intricacies and potential of these components is at the heart of the process, setting the course for creating a system that is scalable and finely tuned for efficient and dynamic system design.

Build a system to scale

In the fourth stage of building a design system, the focus shifts to creating a scale-based system. Once the parts of the system are defined, they are seamlessly intertwined into a framework of reusable components, patterns, and templates. This stage culminates in creating detailed documentation that reveals their essence, best practices, and standardized code. Collaboration with teams such as the marketing department ensures harmonious integration across the product and website mesh – an indispensable step in the evolution of scalable and efficient system design.

Examples of a Design System

Numerous companies are making their design systems available as valuable public resources, often as open source. These examples provide insight into how leading companies approach system design by managing their design and development processes. Studying these public design system examples becomes a rich educational experience, offering a window into world-class organizations’ design philosophy and methodology to build influential and cohesive design ecosystems.



Google’s Material Design 3 is the pinnacle of design systems. This unified, open-source system seamlessly integrates theory, resources, and tools to create exceptional digital experiences. Offering a vast library of UI components, icons, styles, source files, starter kits, and code components, Material 3 exemplifies best practices and innovation, making it the quintessential of effective design system examples.



The Apple User Interface Design Guide is a robust design framework that provides comprehensive resources for creating exceptional apps that integrate seamlessly with Apple platforms. This exemplary design system includes a variety of templates, UI components, and design guidelines developed for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Available for download, these guidelines offer a wide range of tools, features, and UI design style guides that elevate the design workflow to unparalleled excellence.



The Atlassian Design System is a holistic resource, offering design tools, features, and guidelines. Designed to improve project management strategies and team collaboration, the Atlassian Design System is the cornerstone for advanced product design tools. Immerse yourself in a comprehensive ecosystem that gives your team the collaboration skills they need to innovate seamlessly and drive project success.



Polaris design by Shopify is carefully crafted for eCommerce merchants, making it an exceptional choice for developing eCommerce projects. This specialized design system by Shopify provides a seamless blend of aesthetics and functionality, giving merchants powerful tools to create an attractive and user-friendly online shopping experience. 


A design system is the linchpin of modern user interface design, ensuring consistency, efficiency, and innovation. As shown in this comprehensive guide, understanding what is a design system is essential to navigating the dynamic landscape of digital experiences. Real-world design system examples from industry leaders such as Google, Apple, Atlassian, and Shopify highlight the transformative power of a well-implemented design system.

Ficus Technologies is at the forefront of this paradigm shift, offering a service and a strategic partnership in realizing your digital ambitions. For example, we seamlessly integrate design systems for clients, optimizing their processes and ensuring a consistent brand presence across platforms. Imagine the effectiveness of a well-orchestrated design symphony, where your brand sounds harmonious with every interaction. With Ficus Technologies, your design system becomes more than a template; it becomes a living, breathing entity that adapts and grows with your brand.

What makes a design system successful?

A successful design system is characterized by its ability to deliver consistent, efficient, and innovative user experiences across all digital products. It achieves this by offering a well-documented set of reusable components, guidelines, and principles that facilitate collaboration between design and development teams. A successful design system provides clarity and consistency in design processes, reducing redundancy and fostering a common language. It allows teams to iterate faster, optimizes workflows, and facilitates accurate testing. Adaptability and scalability are key factors that allow the system to evolve with the brand’s needs. Ultimately, success lies in creating a unified and harmonious digital presence that resonates with users.

When should I build a design system?

You should consider building a design system if your digital presence includes complex and varied UI elements and you are looking for consistency, efficiency, and innovation. It’s especially useful for companies with large design teams, multiple products, or a need for frequent updates. A design system becomes crucial if you’re facing challenges such as design inconsistencies, increased design and development time, or difficulty scaling digital products. Additionally, implementing a design system during major projects such as redesigns or new product development provides an opportunity for seamless integration, ensuring comprehensive and efficient design evolution.

Dmytro Berger
My philosophy is, “Design is not a job, the design is life.” In my work, I constantly analyze the latest trends in design and art to create user-friendly interfaces for mobile and web projects. I like to take on serious challenges and create a product that meets all customer requirements and is convenient for the user.