It has been well established that Design Systems are a must-have for organizations that need to be agile, fast, and customer-focused. However, when it comes to Design Systems adoption or even definition, the spectrum is quite wide. What do Product Managers or Product Owners need to look out for to support their teams towards Design Systems adoption?

A Design System provides a library of artifacts guided by clear standards, that are documented and shared by an individual, team, or organization as code and design tools so that building and maintaining products can be more efficient and cohesive.

A Design System’s success will depend on the implementation, collaboration, and adoption within the organization. Drawing from some of the recommendations from Alla Kholmatova’s book “Design Systems”, we define six constituent parts for a Design System.


Depending on the maturity level of the Design System used in an organization it could have one or more of these six parts. 

1. Guiding Principles

The principles that guide how the rest of the Design System need to be built. 

These are the principles that help the team - both designers and the developers - in making choices. These principles are often influenced by the brand voice and the mission of the organization.

2. Perceptual Design Patterns

Design patterns that influence how a product is being perceived.

The style guides that have been in existence way before Design Systems became recognized as a concept is a great example.

3. Functional Design Patterns

Design patterns for building the product functionality. 

Several techniques exist to organize these patterns. The Atomic Design by Brad Frost is a well recognized hierarchical structure for organizing these functional design patterns.

Elements of an Atomic Design System graphic

4. Components for Development

Front-end components (without business logic) that can be reused within a product, and across products. 

The concept of front-end components always existed amongst the development teams. With the recent introduction of cloud platforms (bit and Storybook are good examples) to maintain these components, making these accessible to a larger audience - including the designers - has become much more easier.

5. Collaboration Process between Design & Development

Collaboration processes - automated, manual, or semi-manual -  that are well defined.

It goes without saying that if there are automated processes available the collaboration will occur seamlessly. The integrations between designers’ tools & developers’ tools (Live Components that connect Invision DSM and Storybook is a good example), and the usage of design tokens help with automation.

6. Scaling Process

Documented policies that are essential to maintain a Design System

These could be policies covering what gets accepted as part of a Design System, who is eligible to contribute to a Design System, and how to audit a Design System.

Wrapping it Up

As a Product Manager or Product Owner, you need to have a clear understanding of these constituents, their interplay, the gaps, and how the Product Design and Development teams will follow a Design System.  It is also possible that the organization is banking on your Product Design and Development teams to lay the foundations for a Design System that will later get adopted by other teams. In this case, you have a responsibility to ensure that the product roadmap facilitates building the Design System.

Next Steps

Want to learn more about Design System preparation and implementation? Reach out the team at Object Edge.

About the Author

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Lakshmi KP

VP Customer Success

Lakshmi KP is an experienced Digital Product Manager with a diverse background in eCommerce, financial services, insurance, healthcare, and data analytics. She has successfully led several of Object Edge’s client engagements for building digital products. Lakshmi has also been instrumental in setting up frameworks and guidelines for the Object Edge Product Team to be efficient and successful in their client engagements.

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