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Design System Initiative

A Design System Initiative is the process an organization undertakes when considering to initialize a Design System. This generally occurs in a couple of steps where usually different kinds of workshops are run. It starts way before the pure design and development process itself by impacting many disciplines and stakeholders within the organization.

What are typical steps of a Design System Initiative?

We all know, that in every org there are stakeholders to be involoved, different kind of tools from design to development, existing rules and guidelines to consider and new principles to establish. Usable components to build, tokens to create, docs to write and much more.

A Design System Initiative includes audits of existing interfaces and a user research process to gain as much insights to make better decisions during the initiative. It is important to know your stakeholders and their involvement as the implementation of a Design System often can become a political journey as well.

In the past years, working with clients, the kickstartDS team worked out a workshop format which considers all the important steps and phases. It will be adapted to the individual needs of each company hiring us. We appreciate if you want to know more about our Design System Services here.

Examplary Design System Initiative Process

Examplary Design System Initiative Process

During the initiative we usually run around seven to nine workshops including stakeholder mapping, exploring your current inventory as the baseline to synthesize to what should be real core components, in parallel we will sound out a strategy for the technical implementation and ultimately, we will identify a product serving as the potential pilot project.

Kickoff workshop

The initiative starts with a “classic” kickoff workshop with your core team, or the people who currently own that responsibility. No need for C-level yet. During that first workshop we introduce our process and guide you through all the steps in more detail. On the one hand, that is for you to get familiar with us, and on the other hand of course for us to get to know you better.

Stakeholder Mapping

You need buy-in from all important stakeholders, otherwise this or any other initiative initializing a Design System will not succeed. You might already know, that it not an individual responsibility: who need to take part in decisions, to people who just need to be informed on a regular cadence. We also want to identify the stakeholders who need to participate in the next workshops.

User Research Phase

We advice every organization to talk to as much people being involved in product development. Usually this is an on-going task throught the whole initiative process. Goal is to learn the needs, gains and pains from users and consumers of the Design System. Plus, you will better understand the existing design and development processes.

Inventory Mapping

An important step is performing an analysis and understanding what you will be working with to identify the requirements and prepare a plan. Performing the analysis may consist of:

  • visual audit and collection of existing elements
  • identification of common design tokens
  • identification of common components
  • documentation and clusterization

Component Identification

Using the results of the inventory mapping, in this step a comprehensive list of the core components will be synthezised, this might include buttons, dropdowns, tabs, icons, alerts, etc. to be specified through tokens and component properties ... to later match the needed layout recipes.

Implementation Strategy

A very unique and important next step to each organization is explore which tech stack fits best, or what might be the preferred tool chain and build pipeline setup. Learning how future components can be integrated, which process and / or policy needs to be adopted, etc.

Identification of pilot

The Design System is made to support solving a real problems. It will neither solely succeed due to its comprehensiveness, nor its technical depth in implementation. The goal of this step is to identify a use case where to apply the Design System in a real environment without touching business-critical systems. This will foster engagement with the Design System at an early stage and it might help to also identify potential future advocates.

If you want to read more in-depth what our workshop series includes feel free to visit this blog post.