Zalando’s Design System Contribution Model

Madeline Rogier
Zalando Design
Published in
6 min readJan 31, 2020

Creative technologist, Leonardo Lanzinger, and product designer, Madeline Rogier, describe the process of maintaining and evolving a design system.

Photo by Lucas Hasselmann

How do we scale a design system at a company with over 20 million active customers and a team of hundreds of developers and designers? How are all of the components managed?

It’s definitely a lot to juggle and there’s a lot of trial and error in the beginning. A design system is not just a pattern library or a set of design guidelines, but rather a full product that requires both the focus of a central team and contributions from distributed feature teams. This article focuses on how our design system contribution model ensures that our design system has all the components and styles that teams at Zalando need to deliver their features. We hope to provide some tips to other folks working on this topic, and will share some of the insights that we learned along the way.

Curious what a design system is and why you need one? Then we suggest reading this UX Collective article on Medium. And if you’d like to know how our design system is structured, we use Atomic Design. For how to build a contribution model, read on…

Why should more people contribute to the design system?

Our contribution model allows feature teams to add new components or new styles based on their product requirements. At the same time, as the contribution model provides a central place to manage changes in the design system, we are able to keep an eye on the quality and consistency of the user experience. It also comes with the benefit of sharing the effort of evolving the design system across the many teams who are using it.

What does the contribution model look like?

Feature teams at Zalando are organised around specific segments of the customer journey. They are fully fledged teams that include dedicated designers who focus their work on specific customer problems.

The Zalando Design System, however, is mainly maintained by a centralised team called (you guessed it!) ZDS. This team’s main goal is to help feature team designers to deliver engaging and delightful experiences to our customers by…

Madeline Rogier
Zalando Design

Product Designer based in Berlin @zalando