Approaching Design System as a Part of Your Organisation

Roman Lihhavtsuk
5 min readOct 22, 2020

“It is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.”
Russell Ackoff

During Helsinki Design Systems meetup, I was asked if there were any tips on how a designer could start a design system project when there seemed to be no initiative from the upper management. This question deeply resonated with me, as my role in this endeavour was never to build a design system itself, for that I had a better equipped colleague, but to figure out how to integrate it into the rest of organisation with our limited resources and little support.

Our main approach was to come up with an evolutionary process, where the value the design system (even if partially implemented) brought to developers would be higher than the effort to adopt it. In other words we were designing our design system not to be perfect, but to be used.

One of our early workflow visualisations (rich picture)

Nevertheless, the goal of this article is not to dive into intricacies of our planning process, but, when looking back to our story, to think what kind of tips I would have shared, if I was asked the same question today.

So here is my list:

1. Find like-minded colleagues
In every more or less large organisation there are definitely at least few more people except of you, who thought that creating design system would be a great idea. Therefore it is important to find them and offer a collaboration, especially if they are from different professional background. In our case such person was a senior developer, who helped us to create a repository and provided a lot of technical support during the early stages of the project.

2. Define your user
When resources are scarce, it is very important to define your user as precisely as possible and then focus exclusively on their needs. It is even better if you can think of real people in your organisation, who will be using the design system. The users can be either designers or developers, but I would not recommend to focus on both at the same time. In our case the users we had exclusively focused on were developers working with web applications.

3. Replicate user’s workflow
As it was mentioned earlier, it is extremely important to keep the…

Roman Lihhavtsuk

B2B in-house designer and occasionally a systems thinker.