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The Architecture of a Design Language System (DLS). How Perishable is This Language?

In a digital era, every business has an impressive hunger of design and marketing materials as their success is depending on it. But big companies and corporations are looking for more. They need to create lots of ads, campaigns and more than one single web platform, so they are looking for what is called today a “design language system”. Making the design more systematic in a chaotic, permanently changing online World sounds like impossible. So what’s that? Is this really useful or it’s a waste of time and money? Let’s see.

What is a DLS?

And what are its limitations?

What actually is Design Language System(DLS)?

There is no standard definition of “design language system” within the web community and as in most cases when talking about new terms and digital things, people use the term in different ways.

Some people are defining this as “a set of rules or guidelines that heightens the level of harmony in a digital ecosystem.” Other designers consider the DLS “a collection of reusable functional elements (button, form, header, etc.)” or a “set of connected patterns and shared practices, coherently
organized to serve the purposes of a digital product”.

However, everybody agrees that the same as a brand book, this is a tool we can access whenever we need to design a new layout for a certain brand. This way, rather than focusing on pixels, developers can focus on application logic, while designers can focus on user experience, interactions, and flows.

The Foundation of a well-functioning, enduring design system

As the web platforms continues to change rapidly, there was a huge need of rethinking the way we design it. Also, we needed a more systematic approach. So if you’re wondering if you need a design language system and if it’s really something that could be helpful, the answer is simple: as long as it is able to systematize all designs belonging to your company, this will be a useful tool.

design language system

But how do you know if it is or it’s not?

Defining the repeatable, reusable parts of the interface and the principles of a good practice should be the most important elements of a good and useful design language system, helping other designers and developers to generate coherent user experiences. From the concrete and functional, every detail such as button style and text fields iconography styles, colors and typography need to be included.

However, a design system consists not only in a pattern library, but includes also techniques, rules and guidelines for how to use them. It is probably a kind of brand book, focused on user experience and web platforms, creating a holistic perspective to ensure we’re all adhering to the same concept promoting the same visual message.

The Limitations of a Design System Language

The same as when creating a brand book, the materials should be able to inform about the concept and the promoted message while being able to reference the design principles against any new related project.

There are also certain situations when a type of element and design needs to have a specific adaptation for different resolutions, and for this reason, design system languages include variations for different type of devices. However, a design language system is still a conceptual material although it is presented as a “dictionary” with concrete elements. You cannot expect the design language system to contain all the new possible designs and pages for any kind of platform.

Nevertheless, there is another question we need to ask. The web design trends, the style of elements and the standards are often changing. A website built three years ago is already outdated and it looks unprofessional. Things we like now will be soon outdated as the technology is fast-changing and trends are unpredictable. So is it a wise choice to invest time and money in a design language system that is promoting perishable design principles?

As long as we have conceptual design language system, containing both examples and technical rules, you don’t need to be afraid that it is getting old, it may still be a magnificent tool. A cohesive design language creates harmony within a platform and adds consistency at a higher level while making everything easier when creating a new design.


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