Design Systems

Unify user experience through a shared design language

This book guides you through the process of defining a design language that can be understood across teams, while also establishing key communication strategies for how to sell your system to key stakeholders and other contributors.

design system graphic

What you will learn


In this book, we begin by looking at the history of systems in design to gain perspective on how this has impacted the design systems of today. You’ll learn about the intersection of art, technology, and industry during the early days of the web and examine the technological advancements that led to the prevalence of CSS and Javascript in the digital landscape. You’ll come to understand why design systems have risen in popularity and how they align with, and are influenced by, development best practices.


Getting support from key stakeholders will be essential. You’ll learn about the three target audiences for your system and how to gain their support. You will need to understand how your peers, your overall organization, and the users of your product benefit from a design system in order to form the necessary allies for your effort. We will also show you how to use qualitative and quantitative data to measure the benefits.


Implementing your design system can be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. We will show you how to assess your organization before attempting to build your system. You’ll learn why the type of organization you work for can affect your approach. You’ll be given the tools to assess the current state of your product to help determine the structure that best suits your organization’s needs. Case studies help put the unique challenges you are facing into sharper focus.

Building blocks

Next, we will focus on the six interlocking areas that make up a design system; Layout, styles, components, regions, content, and usability. You learn how these parts work together to create a robust system. We will help you to understand whether it is the right time to implement a design system and, if it is, how to avoid common failures.


Next, you will learn how to think about design systems as a shared language. You will learn how to create the building blocks and guidelines for your language. This can be done by breaking interfaces down into their simplest forms, as well as by building elements up to create larger interfaces. We will show you how to create design principles that you can use to craft your unique design language. These principles will address both user needs and organizational goals.


Iterating on your system will be key to its future success. Your design system cannot be created and then set aside. You will need to understand how to maintain and scale it as your product and organization changes. Measuring and tracking results will be vital for your stakeholders. We will show you how to maintain momentum through established process, goal setting, and evangelizing your system across your organization.

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About the authors

Sarrah Vesselov

Sarrah Vesselov is a designer and developer with more than 10 years’ experience in web design and development. As the UX manager at GitLab, she helped set the overall direction of UX from a design and application experience perspective. Before landing at GitLab, she was lead UX designer and UI developer at Nitro Solutions and UI/UX manager at Mad Mobile, building beautiful experiences for clients including Aeropostale, Payless, Sysco, Talbots, and AutoNation. She served as Director of the Tampa chapter of Women Who Code for several years and is passionate about teaching and mentoring the next generation of tech.

Taurie Davis

Taurie Davis is a UX and product designer who specializes in applying user-centered design methods to create cohesive, intuitive, and compelling experiences. In her role as Staff UX designer at GitLab, she actively contributed to their design system as a primary maintainer. Her experience includes working with startups and mentoring designers around the world. She is passionate about the open source community and growing open design practices.

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Copyright © 2019 Sarrah Vesselov & Taurie Davis