Launching your design system, part 2:
Incremental redesign

4 min read
Will Fanguy
  •  Jun 20, 2018
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Launching a new design system can be an intimidating task. So what’s the best way to introduce your new design system to the rest of your company? A few weeks ago, we published a post on launching your new design system via a complete overhaul. Today, we’re going to take a look at a way to launch a bit more gradually: via an incremental, piece-by-piece redesign.

This approach may seem a bit more manageable, but remember: setting up a new design system is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’ve got time, patience, and ongoing support, launching your design system in parts and pieces might be the best approach for you and your team.

“There are nuances to an incremental redesign.”

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Related: Design system theming: How and why it works

Option 2: an incremental redesign

Not all design systems teams are able to take the time and focus necessary to develop a fully-fledged system all at once before rolling it out to the masses. Many teams have to roll out parts of a design system one (or a few) at a time.

The upside to an incremental rollout is that teams can adopt new parts of the system as they become available, which can feel less daunting and disruptive. That being said, your redesign team will need to give more thought to communication and promotion of the new system. Without a big launch, there isn’t one key moment that gets everyone’s attention. Instead, you’ll need to find and create occasions to introduce people to your design systemTwitter Logo.

There are a few qualifiers to look out for when deciding if a incremental redesign is a good for for your launch. If you’re in need of some quick wins, this approach gets them for you. This is your opportunity to listen to designers and engineers alikeTwitter Logo to learn where your current system’s weak spots are located. Now you can work on patching them up!

You can also look to redesign parts of your system as they are needed. If your team is working on a new look for branding, you can find the source of the majority of your traffic (your site, your iOS app, etc.) and start there first. Maybe the app needs a whole rebuild, or perhaps the homepage just needs a new coat of pixel paint. Find what needs to be refreshed and start working piece by piece.

An incremental redesign is also a good fit if you have no need for a big launch. If your team is small and everyone is involved, you probably don’t need to have a huge meeting where everyone is introduced to the new parts and pieces. Instead, you can seek out and create occasions to introduce people to your new system. This way, everyone gets their own personalized launch party.

“Setting up a new design system is a marathon, not a sprint.”

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The best ways to complete an incremental redesign

There are nuances to an incremental redesign that you should be aware of before you get started. Take these tips to heart and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Solve problems and win favor early. Win early and win often. In an incremental redesign, momentum isn’t just a good thing for the redesigns. It’s a necessary component (pun intended) for the adopters as well. Start small and find problems that aren’t so complex. Once you’ve got a few “easy” items under your belt, use that impetus to seize some bigger, meatier tasks.

Improve documentation and findability. One of the drawbacks to an incremental redesign is that without a common touchpoint, it can be hard to find and remember to use the new system. It’s often easier to fall back on old habits, even if those habits are more work. To keep this from happening, write solid documentation and make it easy to find and readTwitter Logo. The same goes for new style guides. Reducing friction speeds up adoption.

Be present and responsive (to questions). Responding to people quickly increases the likelihood that they react positively to your team and their recommendations. If you do what you can to help others embrace your new system, it’ll make it a more pleasant experience. You might even try creating an automated system (using something like auto-replies in Slack) that works to answer the most common queries, leaving your team and their valuable expertise to tackle the tricker issues that might crop up.

Looking for more suggestions and advice on how to get your new design system in order? Check out the Design Systems Handbook over at!

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