Elliot Rylands

Staff Product Designer

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Convincing Your Startup to Adopt a Design System: A Guide for Brave Designers

Jun 16, 2023

Design systems: They’re the superheroes of the digital product world, swooping in to save designers from the villains of inconsistency and inefficiency. But how do you convince your startup or employer that it's time to don a cape and leap into the world of design systems? Lets embark on an epic quest to do just that!

What is a Design System?

Let's start with the basics. A design system is like a creative toolbox for your design team, filled with reusable components and patterns, style guides, usability standards, and best practices. It's the secret sauce that makes your digital product not just look cohesive, but also feel intuitive to users. Think of it as a style guide on steroids that covers all aspects of design, not just how pretty things look.

The Business Case for Design Systems

Here's where we bring out the big guns: real-world statistics and examples. Design systems are more than just a pretty (and highly functional) face; they're a business asset that delivers a tangible return on investment.

For example, according to a study by Forrester, well-designed user interfaces can yield conversion rates up to 200% higher. That's no small potatoes! Design systems also boost efficiency, reducing the time spent on design and development tasks by 30-50% according to an InVision survey. Fewer hours spent reinventing the wheel means more time for innovative thinking.

And let's not forget Airbnb, a poster child for successful design system implementation. Their design system, Design Language System (DLS), has significantly increased productivity and collaboration across teams. So not only can design systems increase revenue and efficiency, but they can also foster a more harmonious work environment.

Convincing Your Employer

Alright, time to switch into persuasion mode. Convincing a startup or employer to adopt a design system might seem daunting, but it's all about speaking their language. Focus on the tangible benefits that directly impact the bottom line: increased efficiency, cost savings, improved user experience, and faster time to market.

Start by showing them the stats. Then, paint a picture of how a design system could solve current pain points, like design inconsistencies, wasted resources, or slow development times.

You may encounter objections about the time and resources required to develop a design system. That’s where examples like Airbnb come in handy. Sharing these success stories can provide concrete evidence of the long-term benefits and cost savings. Remember, implementing a design system is an investment, not an expense.

Implementation Strategy

Now comes the tricky part. How do you build a design system with an already busy team? The key lies in incorporating it gradually into existing workflows and leveraging company resources wisely.

Start small. Choose a project or a product that can benefit immediately from a design system. This approach provides an opportunity to prove the concept's value with immediate benefits while minimising disruption.

The development of a design system doesn't have to be an all-consuming task. It can be broken down into manageable parts and incorporated into the team's routine. You could start by standardizing a few commonly used components, and then progressively build up the system over time.

Collaboration is another key aspect. Involve different team members in the development of the system to ensure it meets everyone's needs and to foster a sense of ownership. Remember, a design system should be a living, evolving entity that adapts to the changing needs of your team and users.

As for budgeting, remind your employer of the potential cost savings. Investing in a design system can reduce design and development time, lead to faster product launches, and reduce costly redesigns and reworks down the line.


Convincing your startup to adopt a design system may seem like a Herculean task, but armed with the right knowledge and strategies, you can turn this uphill battle into a victorious campaign. Remember, every journey begins with a single step, and the first step towards implementing a design system is to have that all-important conversation.

So gear up, brave designers! It's time to make your case, transform your design processes, and turn your startup into a design system believer. The future of efficient and consistent design is waiting for you!

© 2024 Elliot Rylands

© 2024 Elliot Rylands