How to Build a Design System For Your Startup

Companies are reimagining their product design by having their own design systems that guide their product development. And it’s not only big companies like Uber, Shopify, and Airbnb. According to a Forrester survey, 65% of companies acknowledge that they use design systems. So why the increased interest in design systems?

How to Build a Design System For Your Startup

Companies are reimagining their product design by having their own design systems that guide their product development. And it’s not only big companies like Uber, Shopify, and Airbnb. According to a Forrester survey, 65% of companies acknowledge that they use design systems.

So why the increased interest in design systems? It’s because businesses are realizing the need to create a consistent digital experience for their customers while shipping high-quality products faster.

A well-crafted design system serves as the bedrock for creating consistent, visually appealing experiences across all touchpoints, enabling your startup to stand out from the competition. However, developing a design system from scratch can be daunting.

That’s why we’ve prepared this guide to tell you how to build a design system for your startup.

Benefits of Building a Design System

Here are some of the benefits of having a design system:

Faster Development Time

Building a design system enables faster development by leveraging pre-built components. Rather than starting from scratch, front-end engineers can assemble these reusable components, reducing the time and effort required to create each UI design element. This streamlined approach significantly reduces development time and effort, allowing your team to focus on adding value and innovative features to the product.

Consistent Identity

A design system ensures that interfaces maintain a consistent look and feel throughout your product. Your interfaces will carry a cohesive identity by adhering to defined guidelines and using standard visual elements. Consistency enhances the user experience and lends a more professional appearance to your product, establishing trust and credibility with your audience.

Less Back and Forth

With a design system in place, you only need to determine "how it looks" for each component once, across your entire product. In other words, you establish definitive guidelines for each component, eliminating the need to repeatedly figure out how each element should look throughout your product.

This consistency reduces back-and-forth iterations between product design and engineering teams. By focusing less on small-level details, your team can concentrate on how all the elements come together, resulting in more efficient design and engineering iterations.

Steps for Building a Design System for Your Startup

Here are the essential steps to guide you in creating a robust design system that drives consistency and accelerates your startup's growth:

Step 1: Choose an Existing Design System to Base Yours Off Of

To kick-start the development of your design system, begin by choosing one that will serve as a foundation for yours. It’s best to choose a design system with an existing front-end component library. Some of the options you can consider include:

Material UI

Material UI is widely regarded as one of the most robust and widely adopted publicly available design systems. It’s based on Google's Material Design system and provides a rich UI design library, guidelines, and resources to create visually stunning and consistent user interfaces. Companies like Spotify, Amazon, NASA, Netflix, Unity, and Shutterstock have embraced Material UI to build their applications, attesting to its popularity and reliability.


JoyUI design system is a focused, streamlined version of Material UI. It offers a stripped-down approach while retaining the core principles and benefits of Material UI. The design system provides a simplified set of guidelines, components, and tools, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a more concise design system.

Chakra UI

If you're looking for a design system that excels at covering the essentials while prioritizing accessibility and modularity, Chakra UI is an excellent choice for your startup. The websites of industry leaders like Ethereum and Figma's Config 23 are built with Chakra UI. It focuses on providing a seamless user experience and ensures that accessibility is at the forefront of its design philosophy.


Flowbite is a design system built off the foundation of Tailwind CSS, a popular styling framework for web development. Leveraging the power of Tailwind, Flowbite offers a rich component library, making it highly compatible with existing Tailwind codebases.

This compatibility ensures a smooth integration process, allowing developers to seamlessly incorporate Flowbite into their projects. You can try the free Flowbite version or advance to a paid version that allows you to access over 1,000 UI components.

Atlassian Design System

The Atlassian Design System (ADS) is known for its emphasis on fostering collaboration between designers and developers. It is the design system extensively utilized by Atlassian across their comprehensive suite of products. With ADS, your startup can streamline the design and development process, ensuring a harmonious workflow and delivering exceptional user experiences.


UntitledUI stands out for its designer-centric approach and high level of customization. With UntitledUI, product designers can customize and tailor the design system according to their requirements. This flexibility allows for creating highly personalized and distinctive product designs that align with your startup's brand identity and vision.

Step 2: Limit Scope to Only the Components You Need

The existing design systems are a valuable starting point for building your own. However, these systems were designed to cater to the diverse needs of numerous startups in different industries.

When building your design system, focus on the specific components that align with the needs of your customers and the interfaces of your product exceptionally well. For example, if you're developing a hotel booking service, you will require a detailed calendar component with extensive functionality and various states to consider.

On the other hand, a sophisticated calendar component may not be necessary if you're creating a dating app. Instead, you should prioritize components optimized for mobile apps, such as text field editing and picture uploading.

To effectively determine the components your design system should include, conduct an audit of all the screens your product requires. Identify the common components that appear across multiple screens and consider their possible states. Consider the screen sizes on which these components will be displayed to ensure responsiveness and adaptability.

You should also define your core color palette for the interfaces within your design system. Consider the following interface colors and determine the color codes that will be used for each:

  • Primary: This is the main color used for buttons when you want to prompt customer interaction. Select a color that captures attention and encourages users to take action.
  • Danger: This color is used to indicate errors or critical issues. Choose a color that stands out and alerts users to potential problems or failures.
  • Success: Use this color when a button completes a task, such as saving a draft. Select a color that signifies accomplishment and reassures users of successful actions.
  • Warning: This color should be used to caution users about potential risks, downsides, or high-consequence decisions.
  • Info: To educate users about your product or interface, employ this color.

When you define the color codes, users will become familiar with the meaning behind each color, facilitating a seamless and intuitive user experience.

Step 3: Iterate

Building a design system is not a one-time task but an ongoing process requiring continuous iteration. As your product grows and evolves, it will inevitably demand new functionalities and features.Your startup may pivot into a new domain, requiring adjustments to your design system. To effectively handle these scenarios, be prepared to update your design system periodically.

But how can you prepare to manage these updates? When the time comes to build a feature that requires UI components not present in your current design system, account for the additional work involved. This includes factoring in the time required for designing and building the new component(s) into your estimation of the overall project.

Furthermore, you should periodically check in on your underlying design system. Keep tabs on any updates, enhancements, or new components that have been introduced. Staying informed about these changes allows you to assess their relevance to your product and determine if incorporating them into your design system would be beneficial.

Advanced Mode: Implement Your Own Design System

If you want to take your design system to the next level, implementing a custom design system is worth considering. It’s an ambitious undertaking that can give you the freedom and flexibility to craft a truly unique and tailored experience for your startup.

To embark on this path, it is strongly recommended to utilize tools like Tailwind CSS and Nativewind (for React Native development). However, you should approach this decision with caution and weigh the challenges and resource requirements. Unless you are a large organization with substantial resources, implementing a design system from the ground up may not be economically feasible.

To mitigate the scope and resource burden of implementing a custom design system, repurpose as much as possible from existing design systems. That means leveraging components, guidelines, and best practices from established design systems while only limiting your scope to what you need for your product. This approach allows you to cut down on development time, tap into existing component libraries, and take advantage of proven design patterns and principles.

Hire Designers to Help You Build a Design System

Building a robust design system is a pivotal step in creating exceptional user experiences and driving the success of your startup. Whether you leverage existing design systems or embark on the advanced mode of implementing a custom system, the key lies in aligning the design system with your startup's unique needs and goals. However, to truly harness the power of design, consider enlisting the expertise of designers.

At NUMI, we can pair you with a skilled designer to help you build your desired design system. We have a pool of guild designers, so you’re sure to find a match whose experience and skills align perfectly with your expectations. Hire a pro today to elevate your startup's design landscape.

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