Digital Design System

The Problem

With a design system that's long since seen its glory days, there was a strong desire and need to relaunch the corporate digital design system. Our digital platforms across the region was in disarray and lacked governance and guidance.

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The challenge

We had 2 1/2 months to complete it. This was a first pass that included a list of 25 components, with variants, in an organised Sketch UI library, as well as complete site documentation that sat in our instance of Invision Design System Manager (DSM).

Leading this project, I had the amazing help from my colleague Jessica to help with designing components, and Nicola who helped edit my Shakespearean documentation to a much more readable state.

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A new found love

While my career has predominantly centered around visual design, creating and documenting the design system for AIA has given me a new found appreciation and love for writing clean, and simple copy. We really wanted to make the design system as accessible as humanly possible, and made sure that every aspect of it showcased this simplicity.

By using a standardized format to illustrate and describe each component, it meant that my writing had to be concise and easy to read. Admittedly, I'm still a long way from there, but it's something that I consciously work towards now when communicating over writing.

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Maintenance & governance

As I mentioned, part of the reason we had desperately needed a revamp with our design system, stemmed from an overall lack of governance with our existing design system. It meant that over the course of 5 years, we accumulated and created 800 components in AEM. Many of which were duplicated in functionality and visual style.

So aside from the creation and documentation aspects, the next keystone task was to create a governance model that 18 markets would follow. Certainly easier to create the model than actually implement it, but as of this writing, we've just started our journey together in making sure we're all working towards the same goals and efficiencies that a fleshed out design system brings to an organisation like ours.

I do hope to be able to update this section and be able to express our learnings and experiences as time moves forward.

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Closing thoughts

The design system at AIA is still in its early stages of implementation, but I'm confident that we're on the right path. The individuals that have volunteered their time to assemble as custodians of the design system at AIA, have clearly shown a desire to be more efficient in their delivery and strive towards building a stronger brand through the use of a common design system.

Some other projects

Jonathan Li
Visual story teller