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Design Systems Are All The Rage – Here’s Why, with Ben Callahan, HOW Speaker

If we did an audit of your brand, with a special focus on its web properties, would we see unity or chaos?


Unless you have a design system in place, it’s likely we’d see more chaos than unity.


That’s why design systems are all the rage lately. All the big brands have one – I’ve seen examples from IBM, Airbnb, Apple and The Gap.


BTW “design system” is a term often used interchangeably with “style guide” and “pattern library” and they are similar, yet different. The common goal is to foster a consistent and cohesive design style across all platforms – not an easy task.


Design systems do, in fact, solve the problem of inconsistencies across large-scale websites and families of brands. When done right, they become a one-stop-shop for reusable patterns, branding guidelines, and a single source of truth for project teams. But a design system isn’t just a collection of the assets and components. It’s much more.


That’s what Ben Callahan, President of Sparkbox, shared with me in our recent podcast interview.


And that’s what we will learn even more about when Ben and his clients from the internal team at Gap, Inc., Teresa Aguilera, Senior Visual Designer, and Nicole Torgerson, Creative Director, User Experience, present their case study, The Story of Stitch: Gap’s Design System at HOW Design Live in Boston, April 30-May 3, 2018


(If you work on an internal creative team, please take the 5-minute survey on design systems whose results they will present in their session at the conference.)


Their case study is the story of a growing design system in a big multi-brand organization, its unique challenges and solutions, and the collaboration between its creators from Gap and Sparkbox.


Stitch began as a collective hope of designers and developers committed to unifying Gap’s online and in-store digital experiences. In the talk, you will learn about design systems and their benefits to organizations of all sizes. You will also get tips for launching and maintaining a system, the technical approach, and organizational change.


One way of thinking about a design system is that it translates your style guide into the language of the web.


A design system is “a living code base of front end web components that provides unity and experience that is easy to maintain” and it’s meant to extend the influence of your style guide so everyone has access to it, especially for digital experiences across multiple brands and multiple web properties.


According to an article on the Sparkbox blog, “Design systems have become the hot new trend in web development. It seems like either everyone has one or is telling you to get one—with good reason. Design systems solve the problem of inconsistencies in large-scale websites. They become a one-stop-shop for reusable patterns, branding guidelines, and a single source of truth for project teams.”


Here are a few examples:




    • IBM:




If you want to know more, listen to the podcast and find more links on that page as well. And be sure to take the survey too:


By Ilise Benun of