Design Systems: Build In House, Or Hire an Agency?


Is anyone here currently building, or thinking of building, a design system? I’m curious whether you decided to build the design system in house or to work with an outside agency, and what your reasoning was behind the decision.


Can you expand more about what a design system is?


A good read for those who haven’t had much exposure to Design Systems.

I’d recommend building in-house. Design Systems are, by definition, constantly in a state of flux. Outsourcing the job to an outside agency gives you a potentially superb one-time set of deliverables, but means that the people who were deeply involved in their creation won’t be around to support their continued growth and evolution.

What’s more, design systems are most effective with more of the business involved, particularly from a dev standpoint. A development team that thoroughly understands design choices from an atomic level is one that will be able to truly implement agile solutions without in-depth UX input (in my opinion of the best benefits of a Design System).


I think it can work both agency and in-house side.
You could get an agency to start it and have a handover process to ensure in-house design team keeps it updated. It is a time consuming process and requires a team to keep it updated and growing regardless of where it gets built.


Sure, that might help! :grinning: I’ll do my best to explain — a design system can include:

  1. A collection of reusable UI components with documentation for each of these UI components explaining usage guidelines and how to implement the component.
  2. Style guidelines on things like typography, color, motion, iconography. Plus developer tools and workflows to use these styles.
  3. A governance process dictating how the system is changed over time.
  4. Integrations with digital products and web sites — meaning a single change to the system will propagate to your entire web presence.
  5. Quality assurance tools and workflows to make sure these large scale changes don’t break everything.

Alex Pate created an awesome repo of example design systems.

A design system aims to solve a few problems. First, it helps designers across teams and products be consistent — both with high level things like design principles and granular things like colors and typography. Second, a system helps engineers build faster by eliminating waste. They no longer waste time building a button from scratch, for example. Instead, they just grab or import the code from the design system. Third, is scalability. A change to a component no longer takes weeks of manual work, it’s just a single change in the design system.


@dougcollins @ari_rahmati Thanks for your replies! Just curious, what are your roles at your organization? I’m trying to understand how the perception might be different between more tactical designers and “decision makers.”


I’m a contract UX & UI designer agency side. I’ve worked on projects where a design system doesnt exist and have made them - very ‘lite’ ones as design systems are not a big thing with these clients. I’ve aslo used design systems when being part of a project. I wish design systems were more adopted across industries but to be hoenst even when they are the last 3 points you listed above would get ignored because as you suspect, managers don’t understand them and dont care about them when they have other deadlines and pressures to think about. I guess it depends on the culture of the organisation - if it’s progressive it will adopt if it’s still transitioning from old school thinking it’ll be a challenge


Apart from what @jaymes_jones1 said.
8 Point grid system is best to keep consistency and it’s more than consistency in your product. IMO, consistency is the biggest challenge right now in UI.
DS is a language. It tells about your company through the product’s branding. Your DS defines the product and your product defines Design System.

ATM, if you want to design a Design System for your product. You must do research properly before designing it.
Without proper research, DS might fail.


and I did design a design system which was in-house. Although, I used a loose system and solidarity model in Desing System.
DS indeed helped me a lot but it’s still hard to keep consistency since I am one man army at my organization.