Do brands and design systems go together? Are brands dependent on design systems? Or do they put the finishing touches on a brand? We discuss these and other questions with Christoph Faschian (Studio Lead Hamburg and Executive Design Director) and Christian Leuenhagen (Design Director, Cologne). After their talk at the sold-out Design Business Days, we spoke with them about trends, flexibility and how design teams efficiently build brands and strengthen them in the long term.
Christoph Faschian: Design systems are essential because they create a clear and consistent visual identity that is at the heart of a brand. In an increasingly diverse digital landscape, they enable a consistent message to be conveyed across different platforms. Without a solid design system, inconsistent design decisions could lead to confusion and weaken the brand experience. A well-designed design system, on the other hand, builds trust, strengthens recognition and lays the foundation for long-term brand coherence. In addition, design systems help companies transform - including digitization at all levels.
Christian Leuenhagen: A design system offers reusable design elements and components, this speeds up the design of new content. This saves time and resources. It also facilitates collaboration because all team members work on the same design principles. Everyone on the team implements the changes seamlessly. Lego building blocks are a great way to illustrate this: All components can be combined with each other, just like Lego, and then applied in the design system to websites, apps, and internal and external applications with a perfect fit.
Christian: An agile design system accommodates trends without compromising fundamental brand values. Through regular reviews and adjustments, current trends can be incorporated while core design elements remain unchanged to maintain brand recognition. Just a full Lego box: now a house, ship or plane. Using the system puts the finishing touches on the daily work.
Christoph: Challenges can range from team acceptance to scaling the system. During implementation, proper training is important. This familiarizes the team with the system. When it comes to maintenance, a governance model can help to manage changes and ensure the system keeps up with the growth of the brand.
Christoph: A design system creates consistent user experiences that build trust and foster user loyalty. Clear design guidelines improve usability. This in turn has a positive impact on brand perception. And it strengthens brand identity!
Christian: We know from various studies that, on first contact, design leads to a lasting impression for 70 percent of users. And over 80 percent of consumers trust a company with a well-designed website. In a holistic sense, brand, experience, communication and technology need to work with the same vocabulary and mindset.
Christian: A design system defines the fundamentals that serve as a starting point for creativity. As mentioned earlier, like Lego with its recurring bricks, a design system encourages creativity. This means by solving recurring design problems, designers can focus their time on innovative solutions instead of dealing with fundamental design issues. The result is creative yet on-brand design solutions. What's more, according to a test by Figma, designers are one-third faster in production. In addition, the time of handoffs is reduced by 50 percent from design to WebDev. So we also minimize design overhead for developers. We use the time gained for creative processes.
Christian: The coordination takes place in close collaboration with the client and the internal teams. Regular meetings, presentations and feedback loops are critical to ensure the brand is properly understood and the design system meets everyone's needs. Fundamentally, we become more efficient with design systems.
Christoph: Open communication and clear processes ensure that all voices are heard. Accessibility must be systematically considered. Code maintenance, loading speed or even the quantity of changes is reduced. Not visible to users, but: This also makes the brand an experience.
Christoph: The close collaboration allows for a deeper connection to the brand and a holistic integration of the design system. The agency contributes creative expertise, the client its brand knowledge. The internal teams contribute their practical experience.
Christian: This synergy results in a design system that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also strengthens the brand in its diversity, and enables successful brand experiences in the long term. In addition, once established, the process becomes efficient - and saves costs.
Thank you for the interview.