Expert View

Design systems and customer experience

Claudia S. Friedrich

… or what are these two concepts really about? Both are shaping design development, processes and collaborations of different experts and stakeholders. But which is which, and how do both resonate?

I believe that, by combining design systems and customer experience developments and teams, we can make both, visual brand languages and customer journeys, more successful.

Design systems are mainly shaped by the interface design of digital products. As industrial designers, we aim to develop and implement them in a holistic manner. Design systems comprise the following five aspects:

  1. The DESIGN VISION, including the brand objectives and design strategy.
  2. DESIGN PRINCIPLES, including UX guidelines for applying and developing the design system further.
  3. DESIGN COMPONENTS, i.e. individual elements that are applied as part of the design.
  4. DESIGN GUIDES, including brand visuals and brand definitions to inform the overall design.
  5. DESIGN RESOURCES, which are process-oriented and include both teams and tools.

The relationship between brand and customer experience is as follows:
The brand can be seen as the driver of the design alongside the user requirements. Any brand comprises two perspectives: the internal view and the external view.

The internal view constitutes the brand identity and is shaped, among other things, by visual brand languages and design systems. The external view is the brand’s external image, i.e. the brand image as it is perceived by users and customers. These are exposed to the brand at different touchpoints of their customer journey, e.g. direct communication with the company, or analogue or digital products or services – making up the customer experience (CX).

Whenever the brand identity and the brand image match, this means that many of the stakeholders in the company did a good job. And this is where design systems and the customer experience should come together – at the interface of all three areas of expertise:

  1. Design experts who look at the experience from the user’s point of view (UX) and create brand-specific design systems.
  2. Brand experts who keep a focus on the brand experience (BX).
  3. Customer experience (CX) experts who consider all touchpoints of a customer journey.

This process is a cycle that constantly evolves with the participation of all experts because both users and customers continue to evolve. Companies and brands are thus subject to a process of change too. Hence the concept of development and transformation should be seen as an integral part of creative thinking. Such creative thinking cannot take place in a vacuum, but calls for collaboration.

We create visual brand languages for our clients’ product portfolio as a design system that allows this language to evolve in a target-oriented, efficient and consistent manner across the individual touchpoints. And this works both ways: it is essential in user- and customer-centred design to allow external impetus to flow into the processes so as to enable further development. To successfully shape products and their approval, one does not work without the other. Because only when we create added value for users and customers do we create added value for the company.