Welcome back, space traveler! We’re glad you’re here to learn more about design systems—the best way to organize and manage all your visual content assets.
So far we’ve introduced what design systems are, outlined steps to get started building one, and shown how companies use them to streamline content creation and automate marketing processes. Click through to re-read any of our previous posts if you need a refresher. In this post, we’ll walk through the final steps to prepare your design system for launch.
Up to this point, you’ve…
- Completed a visual audit to assess your current branding elements. (If you need help, our quiz can do the trick.)
- Set goals for how your design system will improve processes across your team.
- Documented style guidelines for using visual brand elements and assembled digital libraries to catalog your existing assets.
Stellar! Now let’s get ready to launch your design system into successful orbit.
Step 4: Build an assets manager
If a design system is your quest for extraterrestrial exploration, a digital assets manager is the space shuttle. Your assets, be it logos, icons, illustrations, etc. are housed within the digital assets manager. It also holds your style guides and brand templates so users—members of your team, freelancers, or vendors—know how and where to use your assets to create new collateral.
It’s essential that your digital assets manager be web-based for a few reasons. Hosting assets online prevents all those design files from bogging down your local (offline) storage. It also allows for version control since newly created assets or new versions can go live to the entire team instantaneously—everything is always up to date. Giving access to remote employees or outside vendors will also be a breeze with an online system. You can build a custom system if it makes sense for your team’s needs or use a third-party solution to host your assets.
Step 5: Scale it
Once you build or choose an asset management system, you need to ensure it can scale effectively as you add more assets and onboard additional users over time.
Your library of assets should be completely searchable and easy to navigate. Establish file naming conventions and thoroughly document assets within the system. Use tags to label assets so others can easily search for them.
Beyond documenting assets in the design system, you also need to define rules for using assets as well as maintaining and adding to the system. Users should not only be able to access assets within the management system, but also see guidelines about their proper usage. As your team integrates the design system into your content creation process over time, you may find you need to add new icons, illustrations, or brand colors. There should be a clear process in place for requesting and rolling out these additional assets. By creating guidelines that allow the design system to scale, you can effectively adapt to evolving needs.
Step 6: Prepare the team
Now it’s time to get the team on board. It’s critical that everyone who works with your visual assets understands your new design system and how to use it.
First, communicate with your team about why you’ve invested in a design system. Teammates should understand why this change is happening and its associated benefits. By consolidating all your brand’s visual assets into a central repository that everyone can access and use, you’ll save time and all of your content will have a unified brand. Your organization’s identity will be clear and more cohesive, and everyone’s lives will be better. (Refer back to Part I for more about the benefits of design systems.)
Next, compile examples and educational materials to show the team how to use the system. Learning resources will help minimize the pain of launching the system and onboarding new producers or vendors. These materials could include a getting started guide, FAQs, or dedicated guides per role (designer, copywriter, developer) or project type (email template, sales brief, data report). How much educational material you need may depend on the size and complexity of your design system and your team. You should also designate in-house experts to help others learn the ropes and train brand ambassadors on how to manage the system.
If you’re able, provide ongoing workshops or demonstrations about using your design system. Have a remote team? Create video tutorials or host an internal webinar to walk through a new project type. Though it might seem daunting, educating your team is essential for the success of your design system. Too many companies of all sizes miss this step. You invested a lot of time and effort creating it, so it’s worth making sure everyone knows how to use it. Investing in your team’s learning now will pay off in the long run as your design process becomes streamlined with a shared library of assets.
Step 7: Provide ongoing support and maintenance
You’re in orbit! Congrats! Now that the design system is live, it’s important to continue building according to the established style guides and preferred forms of documentation (see Step 5 above). Your design system will grow over time, so these guidelines will help prevent growing pains along the way.
As your team adopts the design system, monitor its success. Who on your team is using it correctly? Are there any common mistakes or barriers in your workflow? How much time is saved? Answering these questions will help you measure the ROI of your design system.
Finally, seek contractor support when necessary. As your collaborator in building the design system, the Lemonly team is here as an ongoing resource to make updates to the system, create additional assets, and provide educational content to ensure your launch and adoption are successful across the entire company.
There you have it! Your guide to building and launching a design system to manage all your visual assets. You can always contact us with any questions about design systems or to get started creating yours.