Why big brands need design systems

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It is now yesterday's news that the consumer experience has almost entirely shifted online as a result of a global pandemic.

With such sudden change in behaviour, consumers have honed their taste in regards to interactive experiences, and they are increasingly looking for the best digital platforms available out there. As we step into a new normal, it is no longer acceptable to only hold a bare UI or design structure for your online presence – you need to cater for flexibility, ease of use and effectiveness. If you are a big brand, design systems can be an option.

We reached out to Ed Nicholson, Brand Experience Director at Organic, to discuss the topic in more detail below.


Why big brands need design systems, now more than ever

The events of 2020 (and indeed the start of 2021!) have seen consumers interact with brands online more than ever thanks to the removal of all physical touchpoints due to social distancing measures and lockdown restrictions. It goes without saying that as a result, being able to offer the best digital presence possible is increasingly important. Consumers demand and expect a coherent experience when interacting with brands online, which means efficient design systems for brand websites and digital experiences are increasingly valuable.

Design systems have become even more necessary to ensure seamless digital functioning, as brands must have a connected journey for the user across their digital properties. This is why having a design system offers brands the opportunity to make this a reality for the customer’s online experience. 

The importance of design systems for brands

A design system is the single source of truth which groups together all the elements that allow teams to design and develop products efficiently and well. It's a collection of reusable modules, guided by clear standards, that can be assembled to build any number of applications. 

It can be difficult for companies, especially those working on a global scale, to build a unified brand across a variety of products when working in so many different markets. These are the precise circumstances where a design system comes into its own. Alongside this, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation, forcing brands to be completely invested in digital and adapt quickly. Having a design system in place means brands can launch a D2C website, for example, and market to key areas that feel consistent and on brand. 

A design system will constantly evolve with the product, the tools and new technologies. As Emmet Connolly, director of product design at Intercom said, “Think of it as a big box of UI Lego pieces that can be assembled in near-infinite ways using the UI pattern and module libraries.” 

Why design systems are even more important in the current climate

Employees across most brands have changed the way they work due to the pandemic. And with an increased number of people working remotely, there's a need for a place where any employee, from any location, can access the right information in order to create something quickly. 

Because of COVID, brands are having to move even faster than they did before, and this, coupled with redundancies and furloughed staff means teams are having to do more with less. A design system allows you to do that. According to a survey by Inside Design, around 90% of respondents with a design system have reported at least an hour in work savings per week, and about half said it saves them more than six hours of work each week, proving their worth. 

The future of design systems

The impact of COVID-19 is ongoing, and now so much of our life relies on digital, the importance of using design systems will only increase. The need for digital is not going to disappear any time soon and a design system allows you to act quickly, efficiently, consistently and remain on brand across all your digital activity.

As we move forward, more and more of the big brands who aren’t yet using design systems will start to tap into them. Design systems will continue to help improve cross team collaboration within businesses, especially as an increasing number of companies will continue to work remotely. In the future, design, development and marketing teams will become able to work more collaboratively, breaking down silos within businesses. The evolution of design systems will move past just UI and development challenges and begin to challenge and answer deeper user and business needs. Those that embrace design systems will be able to improve and continue to create delightful experiences for their customers across digital.

Ed Nicholson is the Brand Experience Director at Organic. Header image: Leo Uehara


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