ID design systems

Hey Everyone,
I’m thinking of ways to improve innovation efficiency between design teams (especially across vendors). Has anyone ever been given or created an ID specific design system for a client (similar to graphic brand guidelines but in a 3d space)? Systems like this seems to do wonders for UI UX design teams and I’m curious to see if anyone has come across something similar for industrial design.

Yes, We used to get hired to make them quite frequently when I was at frog. Since I went out on my own a couple of years ago I’ve done several. It is frequently called a Design Language System (DLS). Typically when we do them I like to do the following in the research phase:

Internal stakeholder interviews
Ethnographic user interviews
Current and historical product analysis
Future state projection

Then recap all of this in a 1-2 day workshop with key project owners.

Next we will visualize all of the critical elements of the DLS and frequently do several “Reference Designs” in the language (sometimes just sketches, sometimes all the way through appearance models depending on the client.

The final DLS document (usually a hard bound printed book, sometimes called a playbook, distributed to the team and key vendors) typically contains the following:

Brand story
Brand positioning
Brand persona
Target user
Product promise
Product design principles
Product design DNA/ingredients
Key design elements
CMF specification
3D logo placement and usage specification
Reference designs

It can be difficult to find to find examples of these documents as they are not typically publicly distributed. When done well it can be so much easier to align things. At my last company we made them for each brand and were able to hand them off to everyone all the way to ad agencies and trade show booth design/build vendors. It got everything aligned much faster and helps the brand have one voice.

Typically the process takes 3-4 months depending on the willingness of the organization. In my experience the most important thing is to have ownership from the internal teams at the onset. They have to want to implement it.

This is a very nice case-study for the Uber rebrand, which includes most of the static graphical brand standard recipes as well as newer media directives, with the rationale behind them. Doesn’t get all the way into 3D though.

The biggest thing we’ve run up against when creating and evangelizing a 3D ‘standard’ or guideline is the ability of various suppliers to understand it and/or follow it, more notably if they are from another country. They are OEMs so are tasked with executing the design and making their own informed design decisions where needed, but results may vary.
I think its easier for the ‘2D’ and computer based stuff.

I’d love to see the brand guidelines book for Juicero.

Michael- That’s super helpful. You are a fountain of knowledge as always! What have been some of the most helpful components and implementations you’ve used? Was there anything that made your vendors more open to adopting the new line of thinking?

I think making sure everyone feels heard. We always spend a lot of time interviewing people at the company so they can voice their concerns and what they feel are the most important things about their products historically. We just wrapped up one of these last week and one of the most important things about the DLS ended up being the company’s location, which is very relevant to their products and a belief point for the brand, but it was something the organization itself always took for granted. sometimes and outside set of eyes helps.

With vendors it can be a bit hit or miss. When I was on the corporate side and I was rolling this out I did education sessions with all of the vendors and all of the internal business units. I let them know that those that implemented it well got to keep working on our brands. I had to let a few vendors go who just wouldn’t use the guidelines (and a few internal people)… which wasn’t fun, but I was being judged on the roll out, so it was not really an option for me either.

These can be done internally. The pitfalls are it has to have a high up exec sponsor otherwise no one listens, and it has to be a priority. Often the day to day operation of the business (getting design done) can interfere with putting a strategy like this together.

The benefits to going outside for this work are typically speed and the organization listens because they are paying for it. The downsides are the cost and it can be tricky to hire the right group who will really do the right thing for the brand and not just change for change’s sake.