Design Systems Opinions

Can style guides cause more harm than good?

Style guides; very important documents. But I believe they can cause some serious issues as well.

Having a clear style guide or brand guide is essential in displaying a brand consistently. But in a digital space, how much can possibly be conveyed through a style guide without it being interpreted the wrong way.

Brand guides and digital style guides are to very seperate things. A digital style guide is exactly that; a guide. It is important to have one to be able to give new designers and agencies a snapshot of what your brand is about, and a very basic understanding of how to use your brand elements.

This is something I would include in a design system with caution. Things to include would be digital application of brand devices, colours, imagery, fonts and tone of voice.

“This is something I would include in a design system with caution”

I would refrain from getting into anymore detail.

If someone is looking for more information; I believe it is crucial at this stage to embed a designer from your organisation to assist. This way you will be able to maintain further control over design elements and provide clear direction from someone who is already immersed in this brand and its styles.

Further detail needed to provider to developers or even contract designers can be listed in another part of your system. Which I call “Implementation: Rules & Guidelines”. Here you can address the use of core UI components and give further details to people that need them.

You can keep your guidelines and process documents in a DSM

You don’t have to use a specific DSM. Figma and Sketch cloud do a great job at listing out these sections if you want to keep everything in one place and limit the amount of tools you use. Which I’m a big fan of.

“Figma and Sketch cloud do a great job; limit the amount of tools you use”

Listed below are a few tools you can use for documenting these.


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