Design Systems: What’s in a Name?

Your team has worked tirelessly developing a vigorous design system and it needs a name. But how do you go about choosing a name for your design system?

As someone new to the world of the design systems, I admit, there is a lot to learn. But one thing that stood out to me right away was the variety of interesting and unique names. Many are simply a company’s name + “DS,” while others seem funny or that the name is part of an inside joke. From the direct example of Nutanix’s “Design System 2.0” to something a bit more quirky, such as GitLab’s “Pajamas,” I couldn’t help but wonder… where are these names coming from and why take time to name it at all?

At the basic level, a design system is a set of technology, tools, and practices that work together — providing consistent, reusable solutions to power web properties and products. Every component is a piece of the business’ style, so the name of the design system should likely encompass the overall personality of the brand or organization.

Naming our design system
Basalt, where I happen to work, believes design systems incorporate technology, as well as principles and practices to build the web better. As the single source of truth for an organization, a design system can provide cost savings, save time and get creative visions to market faster. Design systems are key to the future of the web development. The team wanted to encompass this philosophy when naming our own: Enter Crux.

Crux is actually defined as a main or central feature, an essential point. In other words: the essence, core, and center. Considering the founders of the company spend a lot of time climbing Basalt rocks in the Pacific Northwest, the crux of a route is something with which they are intimately familiar. The aim of the agency is to lead organizations through the toughest parts of building digital properties. For large enterprise organizations, at this moment in time for the tech industry, the “crux” is often implementation of a design system.

Design systems: the good, the bad, the silly

  • Bolt, Pega Digital: Naming as an answer or alternative to a competitive product and offering
  • Lightning Design System, Salesforce: Build applications with the look and feel of Lightning Experience without writing a single line of CSS. Lightning is based off of four design principles that include clarity, efficiency, consistency, and beauty.
  • Nachos, Trello (now Atlassian, as they acquired Trello): When reading about Trello’s design system, they clearly state that they wanted a name that would encompass how they strive to be fun, so “having a name that makes us smile made perfect sense.” Plus, they really like snacking on nachos.
  • Polaris, Shopify: Polaris was chosen to help represent how Shopify has a huge global reach.
  • Swarm, MeetUp: This system is described as a “living ecosystem” to bring people together, perhaps Swarm is in reference to the large groups that they help work together.
  • Crux, Basalt: Let us handle the hard part of the climb.

Why name a design system?
When it comes down to it, a design system is a product that serves other products. By naming it, there’s not only an opportunity to give a brief view or representation of what the business personality or ideals are, but will help define that product. As well as how it’s used, and encourage adoption throughout the company. Once everyone refers to the design system in the same way, with the same understanding, it gives it more power. Naming it “Design System version 1.23” sounds like just another generic release, as opposed to a purposeful product.

So, take the time to think about why the company has decided building a design system is the best choice. What does it encompass? Does it solve a specific problem or need? The answers to these questions may help in choosing the design system name.