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Design System and Lego?
Like the ever-popular Danish building block system, the Design System is a tool for building things quickly and easily according to simple basic principles.
Lego has its own rules that make it possible to build even complex objects. One rule would be that Lego doesn't want you to lay bricks across each other. Lego does limit, but gives a decent basic set of bricks to get creative and build a fire truck for example. The design system also constrains you to pre-select the right components for a user interface.
A design system helps to design user interfaces. With a design system, I have ready-made components that I don't have to redesign or program each time. The components are like in Lego not rigid, they might be available in different colors or sizes.
So...and now try to build a fire truck, but not with Lego bricks, but for example with wood. The difference is clear. Wood is a great material and after watching 20 Youtube videos and investing a year of time, you might get a decent fire truck. But with Lego (a design system) it would have taken a fraction of the time.
Why do I need a design system?
As a UX designer, I don't want to have to make small design decisions like border radius, font sizes, etc. for every feature. I simply don't want to slow myself down with that. What I actually want to do is take care of user needs.
With a design system, a UX designer can pick up speed in the design process, have freedom to prototype and experiment.
As a software engineer, I have a similar advantage and can focus more on software -architecture, data and logic than reprogramming the 20th button. Overall, I have greater transparency and can better plan time for individual features if I know what I already have and what still needs to be designed or developed.
How do I start?
A good start is to take an existing component library as a basis. Over time, you can add more and more custom components and adapt them to your own use case. For this we can recommend: start with Material Design or PrimeFaces.
More insights on design systems in the current podcast episode!