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2.3 Types of Design Systems

Let’s have a quick look at some different types of graphic design systems. Different types will work best for different products and different companies. There is no one-stop-shop solution for this.

A design system needs to be tailored to your specific needs, and hopefully, after looking at these types of visual design systems, you’ll be able to pick the right one for you.

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2.3 Types of Design Systems

Welcome to lesson number three, where you learn about the different types of design systems. And different types work best for different people and different companies and different products. There is no one-stop solution for this. A design system should be tailored to a specific team, company, product, whatever it is. You can't simply borrow a design system from somewhere else and use it in your own product, it doesn't work like that. It needs to be custom made specifically for your project. I wanna mention that most of these types are based on Alla Kholmatova's book called Design Systems. So have a look there, it's a great book on the subject. The first type is strict. As the name suggests, flexibility is not key here. Instead, there is extensive documentation and the standards must be followed to the letter for a precise synchronization between designers and developers. This type of system must also cover a lot of ground because it must support a variety of scenarios. The second type is loose. This is more flexible than the strict one, and your team members can use it as a guideline, mostly, or simply not use it at all. This allows for more experimentation, but you have to be careful because a design system that rigid enough is kind of pointless. If people don't use it and don't stick to standards, there's no point to having a system. You need to find the right balance. The third type is modular. This is made from interchangeable and reasonable parts. Of course, any design system should have reusable parts. But for this one in particular, making components work well together while being independent is much harder. That's why this is the most difficult system to implement. And it's mostly suited for large products, for example, ecommerce websites. Now apart from how a system is built, we also need to look at how a team builds that system. And there are a couple of different ways to do that as well. What I'm about to tell you now is based on this article by Nathan Curtis. And I recommend you read everything he wrote about design systems. In a nutshell, there are three models teams can follow to create and sustain a design system. Solitary, centralized and federated. Solitary is when one team shares their system with another team. Not a great option, because as I was saying earlier, a system must be tailored to the specific needs of the team or the company. So using another team's system might be okay to begin with, but it won't work in the long run. Centralized means a team is in charge of the system and continues to grow it. Their purpose is to facilitate the work of other teams. In this type of model, the team in charge doesn't actually do any design work, but they do work closely with the designers. Finally, teams based on the federated model have a very talented group of people in charge of the system. These people make all the decisions and they convey those decisions to the other teams. These people are also fulfilling their original roles in the company. So there you have it, we looked at a few different types of design systems and a few ways or models that teams can use to build design systems. Now, how do you actually build a design system, where do you start? Well, we'll discover that in the next chapter. And the first lesson on the topic is going to be about design tokens and principles. That's coming up next.

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