One source of truth

Building a design system around collaboration not components

What was the problem?

When it comes to development and design, it’s easy to assume that designers and developers have it all figured out. That every component, style, class, element, button and colour we use on our websites and applications exist somewhere with a label on them and are easily accessible. But with such a big organisation like the British Red Cross, with over 25 websites sitting across 3 different CMS and working with 3 different external agencies, things can get a bit out of hand.

How did it all start?

When Adrien Barbusse, freelance Product Designer started in June 2019, he realised that the only way to design a page on the main website was by using 7 templates on the Sketch app. Whilst ensuring consistency, this was definitely not flexible enough to scale the website.

But there was still a long way to go…

When Shafqat started, he noticed there was limited documentation about how and when to use certain components.

This is our current Jira board, we use weekly sprints and have designed a workflow that enables tight collaboration between different teams

Collaboration is crucial

One of the main issues we found was the lack of collaboration between teams, this is a common issue in many large organisations and it can have serious impacts ranging from tension between people, lack of efficiency and visual discrepancies in our products.

What is a design system?

We can find a few definitions online, some clearer than others, we have selected one that matches our understanding.

What’s the difference between brand guidelines and a design system?

In our last call with the Brand team, we were asked us a very fair question “we already have brand guidelines and a brand toolkit, so what is the difference between what we already have and the design system? Aren’t they the same?”

Why do we need a design system?

At British Red Cross, there are a number of different teams who want to create and launch different digital products or applications to solve different problems.

What do we want to achieve?

Our aim is to align all these things together and document everything. It is also important to mention that we can’t really give a deadline to the completion of the design system, it is not a fixed project, it is a living product providing clear up-to-date standards for reusable components to create any application keeping the brand image consistent across different channels.

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