Does the Design System enhance a Designer’s Creativity?

Indian Design Society
3 min readMay 14, 2020

A continuous innovation, the desire for creative flexibility, and a stream of information available with the flick of a screen have made Design reach a new milestone. For once, it is no longer the linear trajectory that it used to be. Design today is complex, to say the very least. It is not just an idea, it is about the execution. It is not just the execution but the method and ultimately it doesn’t even belong to the method but the enriching experience it creates in its capacity as an ‘idea’.

Designers today are expected to design within the design system- a collection of rules, constraints, and principles, implemented in design and code. With components pre-defined, colors restricted, and mood already implemented, creativity often has to struggle within a structured framework of a system to be able to create something ‘fresh’ and new. For designers working within this ecosystem, their creativity rests on the need to adapt themselves but from within a changing system.

One of the notable examples of a design system is Google’s Material Design, a polished set of libraries offering a wide range of material resources designed to create digital user experiences with a consistent finish and a well-purpose layout and flow.

Do we need Design Systems?

Brands today are positively adopting design systems to better their user interaction, enhance consistency, and adopt a more rounded visual style.

Since a design system exists beyond the visual components, its impact is much bigger than just on the designer. For the same reason, it makes it easier for us to translate an idea from a visual to a developer’s code, experience, or even space. By keeping the language of communication across these arenas the same, a design system effectively breaks down communication barriers between graphic designers, UX developers, CX designers, coders, and other professionals working together. As a result, a brand is assured of consistency, reusability, ease of maintenance, and speed.

But there are consequences…

Design systems bring with them a host of limitations. While added consistency is a luxury, creative impairment might be a consequence since overtime even a system may get ‘static’.

This brings us to the initial question, of whether we are hindering our creative space. A hasty conclusion would drive us towards a ‘yes’. Yet, the idea of intermingling innovation, creativity, and a design system deserves to invite more debate than a ‘hasty conclusion’.

An organization’s design system defines its values and voice. All designs created within this system thus defines the system and hence the brand values. It is often argued how designs created via a design system over time, become monotonous leaving little room for design innovation and exploration.

But by simply infusing innovation and updating the design system- as the organization progresses towards new technology year by year- one can prevent a design system from becoming static. Since a design system represents an organization, it is viable that it should be able to represent its need to upgrade and keep up with the trends.

It is a well-known fact that constraints only allow us to think more creatively, thereby not restricting the explorations but significantly increasing their frequency. Research backs this data and so does several designers working within a system. Design systems define a line of communication that makes creating together both a grand opportunity and experience. For a designer, that is gold.

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