Simply put — because it is an investment that guarantees brand consistency and unification between company departments.
For those who are not familiar with the concept, a style guide is a library of reusable elements with accessible documentation that can be crafted and used by app developers and designers to create objects and experiences aligned with the brand.
The value of design systems has become a major talking point, but how can it be sold? How can it be made to look attractive? Nobody said it was easy, and each company has a set of obstacles to face when marketing their products. However, it’s better to foresee these difficulties, acknowledge them at an early stage, then work to improve them in a procedural and consistent manner.
boost your backstage
People that want to buy a drill don’t actually want to buy one. It is however, safe to say that they want a hole in the wall. We could further extend this reasoning to say that people don’t even want a hole, but rather want to hang a painting on the wall. What does this have to do with what we said earlier? After speaking with different members of the company, many will agree on needing a style guide, though they may not be enthusiastic at the prospect of getting one made. This is because a style guide is not a product in its own right, It is not something you launch and sell directly to your customers. In this way, your clients would most likely benefit from the existence of a style guide, but since the benefits are generally indirect, they may struggle to justify the investment. Maybe the secret to selling a style guide is in remembering that nobody actually needs a style but rather the benefits that result from it. It is like selling an extraordinary word processor, nobody cares much about the features, what common people want is written text. In order to fully appreciate the end result, we must also appreciate the ‘backstage’ that is not seen.
Many times, even after agreeing that the organization needs a style guide, many difficult challenges may still remain. Members of the organization may not understand why a style guide is needed because: they already have something similar, their mobile developers have their own file, or they have architects. In other words, they are thinking, “We already have this and we don’t need it. Let’s rather focus on our next product.” Though the UX team needs a style guide in order to properly and efficiently make the product, since the style guide serves as a road map when designing the product.
So instead of proposing a style guide, what we should have said is: “We will help make your product. If you are interested in knowing how, we will be basing your project on a brand guideline called a style guide.”
from top to bottom or from bottom to top?
It is vital that a style guide exists within the organizational culture. From this, we have observed two possible endings.
Sometimes a style guide starts from scratch as a foundation made by a few designers, developers, or people from the product team with the focus of creating a set of rules and principles — growing slowly from there to include a concrete set of tools.
Other times, a style guide can start from the top. The CEO, VP, or other senior executive says puts the style guide in place insisting that it be used throughout the company, and after some commotion and turmoil, everybody starts using it.
After much analysis, we have realised that high-performing organizations that are continuously creating new products and projects, have almost always implemented a style guide.
The important thing is not just finding funding or resources, but also finding allies and kindred spirits open to a new way of working.
A style guide acts as a unique truth source for an organization and must evolve continuously to harbor all design elements including: typography, brand colors, icons, designs, and more. By ensuring that all the elements are updated and comply with the company standards, the style guide can easily be used as a framework for any project.
Advantages of having a style guide:
- It improves collaboration between the different work teams — a centralized design file and system guidelines improves communication between developers, designers, product managers.
- It makes development more efficient because these systems are constantly updated, allowing for a dynamic and flexible approach that permits quick changes in the company.
- The style guide achieves UX quality and consistency by serving as a road map of tested elements that can be applied to any project.
- It improves marketing efficiency, since the implementation of a style guide cuts out repetitive tasks done by design and development teams, allowing them to focus on the creation of innovative ideas.