Case Study

How Vodafone built one of Europe’s biggest design systems

4 min read
Abby Sinnott
  •  Jul 16, 2020
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Imagine: Your design team is digitally transforming, operating in an agile environment, aiming for faster time to market. But with dozens of teams working around the world, how do you ensure consistency and connected workflows?

Well, that’s the challenge that Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecoms companies, was trying to solve. Since launching the UK’s first cellular network in 1985, the company has grown to serve more than 300 million mobile, broadband, and television customers in 22 countries. Over the course of its history, Vodafone has built a powerful, global brand identity—its red and white logo is ubiquitous in Europe and other parts of the world where it operates—but the company aimed to create greater design consistency across its digital properties and customer touchpoints as part of their ambitious digital transformation.

The challenge: unified branding

While Vodafone has a huge digital footprint and strong brand loyalty, the company faced some challenges in design consistency. This stemmed from teams in different countries often working independently and creating many of their own assets to local specification.

“It can be difficult to build a unified brand across products when working with so many different markets, all of whom had their own version of designs,” said Daniel Fontaneda Bonilla, product designer at Vodafone Group. “We wanted all of our apps, services and customer journeys to look like they come from the same Vodafone family.”

The solution: a design system

So in 2019, Vodafone introduced a connective tissue across its markets: a design system, called Source, built on InVision’s Design System Manager. With it, Vodafone Group—based in the UK—functions as a “global host” for all of its markets, testing and designing core brand components, guidelines, templates and assets that are then delivered via Source to team members in global markets.

Benefit: 40% increase in design productivity

With 224 users in 15 markets, Source is one of the largest design systems in Europe. Implementation on that scale was not without its challenges, due to factors such as differing levels of design maturity at the local level. However, Manuela Iezzi, the Vodafone Product Owner for Source, said that 15 markets are now actively using it.

“Source has led to massive benefits in terms of time saving and work velocity,” added Chris McGahan, who leads design function at Vodafone Group. “Now, everyone can pull from the same set of reusable assets that have been rigorously tested, are fully accessible and automatically updated when changes happen.”

Jose Castillo Rivas, UX/UI team leader and design chapter lead at Vodafone in Spain, said that Source has been instrumental in improving the team’s efficiency—shortening their entire process from days to a couple of hours.

“With a library of components that Vodafone Group has created, we can just drag and drop something new like an asset, which used to take days to develop, and now it only takes us a couple of hours,” said Rivas. “This efficiency gives us more time to think about solutions and big picture stuff, rather than just redesigning buttons and components.”

But it’s not just Rivas’s team that is seeing results: Vodafone reported that for certain projects, Source increased numerous design teams’ productivity by up to 40% after only three months.

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Benefit: reduced friction during onboarding

To support Vodafone’s digital transformation, the company is expanding design teams in key markets. For example, in the last two years, the Vodafone Spain team has grown from two to more than 35 designers. In the past, while this explosive growth may have introduced hurdles in terms of onboarding, Source has been an incredible tool in getting new team members up to speed.

“We often have new people joining the team and before Source, it took a lot more time for them to learn how to use our assets and tools, understand our vision and the complex needs of the business,” Rivas said. “With the design system in place, people can onboard in a much faster and more efficient way.”

Benefit: connected global design community

In addition to acting as a “single source of truth” for design, Source has also helped unite markets with Vodafone at its Group level in a way that was never possible before. According to McGahan, one of the biggest benefits of Source has been its unlocking of community across its markets. One of McGahan’s main responsibilities is connecting markets with best practices, consistency, and thought leadership.

And to better understand how markets are benefitting from Source, Iezzi asks for monthly feedback on a market’s design system use—what’s working and where improvements could be made based on their local needs— to shape future requirements for the platform.

“By gathering these insights, both Vodafone Group and markets all jointly own the continuing development of Source and are coming together to drive it,” Iezzi said.

This deep understanding of a markets’ unique challenges and customer needs that Source fosters has been a real competitive advantage.

“We are the touchpoint for all of the markets,” Anurag Dixit, UI designer at Vodafone Group said. “When they have a certain request or need, we can provide them with a solution through Source.”

What’s next

Source has helped Vodafone unlock the treasure trove of benefits that come from centralizing design, including keeping consistency worldwide, while also improving productivity and reducing time to market. The new frontier, said McGahan, is to use this power to create consistent, meaningful, engaging experiences across every one of their channels. Now with more consistent customer journeys, designers can work on ensuring the experiences Vodafone delivers instill trust, simplicity, confidence, and joy for every customer—wherever they are.