Encouraging Adoption in Your Design System

Michael Todd
Published in
15 min readDec 21, 2022

Thoughts and examples based on my personal experience from building a design system over 7 years.


In this article, I’d like to share my experiences working on a SaaS product design systems relating to encouraging system adoption. In summary, it looks something like this:

Lead with empathy to foster trust, followed by meeting your team halfway through making space for exploration balanced by realistic expectations. Build historical contextual knowledge over time through experience and investment in your system and your team. Work together to build a reliable source of truth. Finally, maintain and grow your system by embracing inclusion that results in improved engagement.

Intended Audience

Product and UX designers who identify as design system owners, advocates, managers, directors, etc. In this article, I’m speaking directly to you. If you’re someone who relies on a design system but doesn’t necessarily have ownership over it, the thoughts expressed in this article are still ultimately meant to better support you in your work. So I welcome your feedback and sentiment, as well as encourage you continue the conversation within your respective product & design communities so that we can all learn to better support each other and our collective work.

Note: each example referenced in this article is based on first-hand experiences I’ve had over several years of working on a single SaaS product and its design system. Some are specific, while others are generalized. But each is based on actual experience.

Lead with empathy.

Behavior 1 of 7

Think of all the times you’ve had a disagreement with someone and you didn’t feel heard. Did you feel open to hearing their side? Or did you feel too caught up in needing your concerns heard first before being able to hear theirs? That’s normal. And it’s human, especially when there are psychological needs not being met. We crave empathy.

You might often experience a similar resistance from your peers when trying to increase adoption of your design system’s patterns and process. They’re up against constraints that beg them to take an easier path that would break pattern or seemingly ignore existing ones. In my experience, these constraints can happen for a variety of reasons, such as limited time or scope, a particularly…

Michael Todd

Software designer & design systems nerd. He/Him.