Naming your design system
Previously I have written about some guides and best practices on design systems. I have also touched on planning and setting the foundation. This time I would like to touch on a very creative part, and it is about how to name your design system.
When brainstorming for a design system name, I recommend starting with buckets. These buckets are different topics that will provide you with a structure. When researching names, buckets I have selected in the past include purpose, function, cleverness, creativity, to name a few.
The name of your design system should fulfill the design philosophy and principles of the product or company. It should somehow reflect the purpose of the system. Furthermore, the name should be easily understood and if possible, also be inclusive. When I say inclusive, I mean fit all disciplines involved in creating the system.
Finding the right name for your system is challenging, as it is a fine balance. If the name is too creative, it could be misinterpreted. If it is too functional, team members may think it only serves one purpose (ie. only the design team).
I have learned that there are 3 distinctive categories when naming a design system. These are practical, inspirational & fun. My conclusion is based on researching the systems currently available to the public.
The name of the system falls under practical names in the following instances:
- When the company’s name is part of the Design System’s name.
- When the name explains the purpose or the name references the word interface.
On the upside, you know right away what it is due to its practicality. Yet, the name can be very basic and dull, and team members could think it addresses designers only. For instance:
- Uber Design System
- Mail Chimp Design System
- Dropbox Interface Guidelines
- Atlassian Design System
- Paypal UI
- GovUK Design System
- Audi UI
The second one is inspirational. Usually, the name encapsulates part of the essence of the system. They don’t quite relate to the company itself but refer to a belief, medium, or aspiration.
- Lightning — Salesforce
- Fluent — Microsoft
- Polaris — Shopify
- Material — Google
- HUI — Apple
- Spectrum — Adobe
- Canvas — Hubspot
The last category is fun. Fun names refer to the name of the company, the company’s beliefs, industry, and/or culture.
Earlier I mentioned design systems could also have a very inclusive name. For instance, BBC’s Design System is called GEL. GEL stands for ‘Global Experience Language’. ‘Lyft Product Language’ is another example of an inclusive name. To simplify it, you could always use the name of your brand, plus the keywords “Product Language”.
Writing a manifesto
Once you have nailed down the names, create a short manifesto that can explain the name. A manifesto explains how the name derived. It describes the relation to the principles of the design system or company. The nuances of the name will paint a picture on the minds of those using it and those involved in the project.
There are only benefits to having a short manifesto. It will help to integrate new team members into the project. Furthermore, it will help sell the design system. Anyone outside of the project will understand it straight away. Check this design system repo for an overview of several Design Systems open to the public. They contain a very short explanation of what they are about.
What does it do? What does it provide? What is the goal? What advantages does it bring? What is it intended for? — These are some of the questions you can ask yourself to write your Design System’s manifesto.
I hope this helps you find the right name for your design system!