Why you shouldn't build a design system

October 01, 2020

design systemscomponent libraries

The other day I tweeted:

“What is a design system? Wrong answers only.”

My favorite response came from my friend Carl Vitullo, who wrote:

“The simplest and easiest way to speed up development on a small team.”

He’s totally right. If you’re on a small team, and you’re trying to ship your initial product or you’re supporting a single, small application, you should not actively invest in building a design system. Design systems are only valuable at scale!

Design systems require a lot of upfront investment before they’re valuable. And if you don’t invest in them, they will fail. Before you pitch the idea to your team, make sure that your use case fits the tool.

You might consider investing in a design system if your use case meets one or more of the following requirements:

  1. You support three or more web applications
  2. Your large monolithic application lacks design consistency
  3. You have a large enough team, or can hire more people to focus solely on the design system effort

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