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Holistic Design Systems

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In a world where digital is all that seems to matter, the definition of a ‘design system’ seems to be diffuse. And while it’s used in many, many, many, many, many, many different ways, most design systems tend to focus solely on digital. At Dept we try to integrate the online and offline world. A design system should do the same. It needs to function as an all-encompassing guide for brands that understands how the world works, now and in the future.

A holistic design system

When analysing a company, you regularly find multiple design systems and guidelines for the same brand: corporate communication, in-store, marketing, advertising, online and socials; and sometimes business units tend to create their exceptions. This leads to the brand identity being scattered as not one brand image is being communicated with consumers and/or clients. It’s as if five different people are talking to your customer at the same time, each with a slightly different accent. 

A holistic design system will help you communicate a consistent brand image throughout all of your touchpoints, be it print, in-store, digital, video, kinetic and more. This makes a brand more effective, giving it more impact and ultimately saving it money.

A holistic design system can be defined as a complete explanation of a set of rules about what a brand should look, sound and move like, in written text (guidelines), libraries (or components), downloads and templates. It combines guiding principles for digital, print, spatial, kinetic, video and sound.

The benefits of a holistic design system

A proper holistic design system functions as one single source of truth. It’s like having a toolbox in place that creates the opportunity to focus on what design is all about: solutions. After all, anyone with the right skills set (and who reads into the company’s design system) is able to make a new or better product that enhances your brand strategy. Whether this is upgrading the contact strategy of your customer service, designing a brochure, designing a new website, or doing a design sprint, that person should be able to do it all.

It’s this focus on solutions that help you to actually create better products, which in turn benefits the overall recognisability and brand strategy. Ultimately, a design system saves businesses time and money by having everything sorted out instead of reinvented over and over again.

The Dept process

At Dept we combine data, creativity and technology, with experts of all three areas in-house. Thanks to these mixed teams, we look at design systems in a holistic way. We break down our process into three steps:

  1. Define
    We start with by defining an organisation’s positioning: what is the unique and relevant role that it wants to play in the life of its customers? This deep dive helps us to better understand the brand and its position in the market, related to the target audience the best starting point for our projects.
  2. Design
    Based on the brand’s positioning, our team of experts develops brand principles and starts designing. We create a complete visual identity which contains logos, colours, photography, illustration, animation, sound, graphical language and interaction patterns. These are then applied to key touchpoints across all media.
  3. Deliver
    Lastly, we document a set of guidelines across all media, using a platform that is accessible to all employees and stakeholders. This allows the client and all related agencies to easily apply these rules again in the future.

The story continues

A brand and its design system are never done. As the world changes an organisation and its brand must keep up or become obsolete. A good brand continuously reinvents itself, making its design system a living document. At Dept, we understand that need and provide you with a design system that is holistic and future-proof. One that is fit for changes, easy to adapt and never out of date. 

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