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Meet “Design Systems”, A New Smashing Book

It’s ready, and it’s shipping. We’re very proud to release a brand new Smashing book: “Design Systems” by Alla Kholmatova’s — our new practical guide to creating effective design languages for digital products. The book isn’t about tooling; it’s about how to set up a shared language that would help teams produce visual output that consistently renders designer’s intent. Get the book now.71

Sneak Preview (Free PDF Sample)

Download a free PDF sample2 (0.7MB) in which Alla discusses the qualities of effective design principles and how to define them. This will give you an idea of what the book is like. Also, check testimonials3.

Get the book and download the eBook immediately134


Get the book145

Hardcover + eBook. 288 pages.
Free airmail worldwide shipping.

Why The Book?

Many of us have started to approach design in a more modular way recently. It’s just more manageable this way. We experiment with pattern libraries and style guides and almighty design systems, yet while some of us succeed, most of us fail. Our systems get out-of-date too quickly or just don’t get enough traction in our companies. It’s about time to fix it.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Alla Kholmatova to find out what makes a design system effective and what works and what doesn’t work in real-life products. After 18 months of research and writing, interviewing AirBnB, Atlassian, Eurostar, TED and Sipgate, the book is finally done — and it’s shipping. Jump to table of contents6.

About The Book

Not all design systems are equally effective. Some can generate coherent user experiences, others produce confusing patchwork designs. Some inspire teams to contribute to them, while others are neglected. Some get better with time, more cohesive and better functioning; others get worse, becoming bloated and cumbersome.

Throughout this book, Alla Kholmatova, previously a lead designer at FutureLearn, will share an approach and the key qualities of effective, enduring design systems. It’s based on Alla’s experiences, case-studies from AirBnB, Atlassian, Eurostar, TED, and Sipgate, plus 18 months of research and interviews — all attempting to figure out what works and what doesn’t work in real-life products. It may not answer every question, but it will help you figure out just the right strategy for establishing and evolving a design system in your organization.

Who The Book Is For

The book is aimed mainly at small and medium-sized product teams trying to integrate modular thinking into their organization’s culture. Everyone in the product team could benefit from reading this book, but particularly visual and interaction designers, UX practitioners, and front-end developers.

The result is now for you to judge. Printed hardcover, 288 pages. Reviewed by Karen McGrane and Jeremy Keith. Cover design by Espen Brunborg. Get the book now.71


It has been our goal to make the book as practical and useful as possible. We’ve been honored to receive very positive reviews from people working on design systems on small and large scale.

  • “Alla’s book outlines a process not just for creating a design system, but sustaining it over time. If you work on today’s web, I’d strongly recommend reading this insightful, approachable book.”
    — Ethan Marcotte, Designer
  • Design Systems is essential reading for all designers and design teams. Like great design – and effective systems – this book is a complete, connected, compelling guide for crafting great digital product experiences. No single resource has been more integral to our thinking about design systems than Alla’s book.”
    — Jon Bell, Design manager, MailChimp
  • “Alla’s thoughtful analysis of systems-oriented thinking is a fundamental primer for anyone looking to establish a universal language across their team or organization.”
    — Bethany Sonefeld, Design lead, Carbon Design System, IBM
  • “The magic of this book is its recognition that building a design system is as much about forming human connections as it is about technical solutions. It embraces the hard problems, and clears a path to help teams work towards a shared, cohesive vision.”
    — Amy Thibodeau, UX lead, Polaris Design System, Shopify
  • “Great designers make equally great writers because they are meticulous. This superb introduction to design systems is written with the meticulous care the subject deserves.”
    — Heydon Pickering, Author of Inclusive Design Patterns8
Interior design of the book.9


Get the book10Print Hardcover + eBook.
Free shipping worldwide.


eBook11PDF, ePUB, Amazon Kindle.
Available now.

What’s In The Book

The book explores design systems from the perspective of an interaction and visual designer. You won’t find any code samples or in-depth analysis of development tools. The book looks both into the main building blocks of a system and the workflow that would support the integrity of the system — all applied to designing and building websites or products today.

“Design Systems” is about how to approach your design process more systematically, and ensure your design system helps to achieve the purpose of your product and fits with the culture of your team.

The book consists of two parts:

Part 1: Foundations

In the first part, we’ll talk about the foundations of a design system – patterns and practices. Design patterns are repeatable, reusable parts of the interface, from the concrete and functional (like buttons and text fields) to the more descriptive (like iconography styles, colors, and typography). Patterns interconnect, and together they form the language of your product’s interface.

Shared practices are how we choose to create, capture, share and use those patterns by following a set of principles, or by keeping a pattern library.

  • Chapter 1: Design Systems
  • Chapter 2: Design Principles
  • Chapter 3: Functional Patterns
  • Chapter 4: Perceptual Patterns
  • Chapter 5: Shared Language
  • Summary

Part 2: Process

A design system cannot be built overnight – it evolves gradually with your product. But, there are certain principles and practices that we can follow to make sure the system develops in the right direction and provides us some degree of control over it. The second part of the book focuses on practical steps and techniques to establish and maintain a design system, including planning the work; conducting an interface inventory; setting up a pattern library; creating, documenting, evolving and maintaining design patterns.

  • Chapter 6: Parameters Of Your System
  • Chapter 7: Planning And Practicalities
  • Chapter 8: Systemizing An Interface: Functional Patterns
  • Chapter 9: Systemizing An Interface: Perceptual Patterns
  • Chapter 10: Pattern Libraries: What, Why And How
  • Conclusion

About The Author

Alla Kholmatova is a UX and interaction designer with a nine-year experience of working on the web, for a range of products and companies. Most recently she was a senior product designer at an open education platform, FutureLearn.

She’s particularly interested in design systems, language, and collaborative ways of working. In the last two years, she has been spending a huge amount of time working on and researching the subject. She’s been sharing her insights with people through articles, workshops, and projects. Alla contributes to design publications, such as A List Apart, and speaks at conferences around the world.

Quick Summary

What You’ll Learn In This Book:

  1. How to get support for a design system in your organization,
  2. How to conduct a purpose directed interface audit,
  3. How to establish and evolve a shared design language within your team,
  4. How to think in patterns without losing sight of the whole,
  5. How to shift your team’s design process from thinking in pages to connected systems,
  6. How to define effective design principles,
  7. How to identify patterns early in the design process,
  8. How to strike a balance between reusability, consistency, and creative expression of the brand,
  9. How to eliminate duplicates and inconsistencies,
  10. How to establish foundations for a pattern library,
  11. How to define patterns and integrate them into the system,
  12. How to document and evolve design patterns.
Get the book and download the eBook immediately134


Get the book145

Hardcover + eBook. 288 pages.
Free worldwide shipping.

You might not be an interface designer or a visual designer, but you probably know somebody who might use the book. What about offering the book as a little gift or a little token of appreciation, or just send a link to them? ;-) We’re looking forward to your feedback!

Have You Received Your Copy Yet?

If so, please do share a picture with us!

Albino Tonnina‏15
Image credit: Albino Tonnina‏16
Andrew Harvard17
Image credit: Andrew Harvard18
Image credit: Jared Laham20
Image credit: Jordan Simpson22
Image credit: Stephan Boom24
Image credit: Martin Pešout26
And a big thank you to Ryan Mulligan28 for sharing a picture of his copy with us!

(ak, vf, il, ms)


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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs front-end/UX workshops, webinars and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    Ivan Saveliev

    June 27, 2017 2:56 pm

    Instant pre-order (wow, that’s escalated too quickly!!), now have to find enough patience for waiting this sweet new title to join my SM library <3

    SM, as always, – you are the best.

  2. 2

    Looking at the table of contents and the PDF sample, this books looks like it’s intended for beginner and medium audiences.
    I’d like to buy it for a few juniors in my team, am I interpreting it wrong?

    • 3

      Hi Adrian,

      Thanks for your question. Yes, the book should provide the foundations to approaching design with a system in mind. I tried to write it in a way that will be understood by beginners but advanced designers and developers should be able to benefit from it as well, especially if they want to dive into systematic design thinking.

  3. 4

    Seems like it is mostly to do with web. Where is that native mobile love?

    • 5

      Thanks for your question Dafuq. Even though it’s not talking about native specifically, I believe the concepts and foundations can apply to any platform.

  4. 6

    Am I right that the e-book contains only the first part? At least that is what I have got after pre-ordering it. And the whole point in looking into it was to see how others do what I also do and that is in the second part.

    • 7

      Markus Seyfferth

      June 28, 2017 12:18 pm

      Indeed, the book still is in pre-release mode (that’s why the price is discounted) and we’ll roll out the second part of the book in the next few weeks.

      We’ll let everyone know as soon as the whole eBook is available.

  5. 8

    I’m not sure I understand the pre-ordering of the ebook. I gather the first half is available right away. Are you sent the second half once it’s ready or you pay an additional $10 for access to that?

    • 9

      Markus Seyfferth

      June 28, 2017 3:09 pm

      We’ll send out the full eBook once is ready. No hidden fees / additional costs involved.

  6. 10

    James hunter

    June 30, 2017 2:40 pm

    Well, I would say it’s really great book for UI/UX Designers either they are beginners or experienced. I never find the book like this but it has full detail and covering both levels. Thanks Alla you did a great job. Bundle of thanks.

  7. 11

    When you zoom in on images of the Kindle version, they stay rather small (and are not readable). Would be better if images would flip 90 degrees so they use the Kindle’s full screen. Is that something you could do?

    • 12

      Markus Seyfferth

      July 4, 2017 1:17 pm

      Hi Stef, our eBook editor Cosima will look into this. Many thanks for your suggestion!

  8. 13

    The first half has been a good read but left me in anticipation for the second. Is there an estimated release date for the second half?

    • 14

      Markus Seyfferth

      July 5, 2017 2:06 pm

      Early to mid-August is a fairly realistic release date for the full eBook (price will go up from that point).

  9. 15

    Big Bad Robert

    July 21, 2017 9:19 am

    Does/Will this (also) cover Brad Frost’s Atomic Design ?
    If not, will this be beneficial when implementing Atomic Design ?

    • 16

      There is a references to Atomic Design in one of the chapters, but no in-depth coverage. I believe it could complement Atomic Design but the book is written very much from a design and UX perspective, rather than a technical one. My focus in particular is on establishing a shared design language and on collaboration between the disciplines.

  10. 17

    Hey! It’s September. When is the complete ebook releasing? If it has, from where can I download it. I bought this book back in July.
    Thank you for your help!

  11. 20

    Hey! I’m interested in visual aspect of design systems — something like which elements define visual style, how to make design system look like it’s related to certain brand, and how to make system visually unique.
    Does the book cover this topics?

  12. 22

    It is October now. When is the book really being sold/published/out in the store?

  13. 24

    Can I get this book here in Australia? I’m a freelance WordPress developer and I think this book will help me in many fields.

  14. 26

    Ordered 📦 🛫 I’m only 100ish pages into Inclusive Design Systems and I’ve already got a lot out of it. Looking forward to more Smashing books.

  15. 27

    I’m looking to purchase 3 copies of the book for my office, but I’m only seeing the option to purchase 1 at a time???


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