Design systems across the physical and digital

Billy Clarke - Managing Director @ Glue
Billy Clarke
  • Delivery Director
  • 2 min read

Maintaining a universal experience for your brand should be your number one goal as a business owner.

Design systems are great for digital products. As we commented in our recent post What is a Design System?, we explored its benefits within a business. A design system helps maintain consistency across web design, app design, and even kiosk design. But what if design systems could be something greater, what if they could be used across the physical and the digital?

Within digital, a design system makes perfect sense. Within physical, would it not be fair to say we have style guides that do the job of a design system? Yes, and no, is our honest answer. A style guide is exactly that; a guide for the style of something. Whereas a design system is something entirely different from the get-go; its place is at the brand level.

  • An image showing different components from the Built design system. It shows logos, colour styles and iconography.

Physical design system

At a physical and print level, a design system does the same job it does for digital. You have components, patterns, and systems for delivering an effective experience and communication. There are a few differences when tackling design systems for print and physical. Your output must be tactile. What’s the smell? How does light react with it? The list goes on…

We created a universal design system for BUILT/, an on-demand builders merchant. Internally, the design system was classed as a ‘cookie cutter’ guide. With multiple branch rollouts planned and branch-specific marketing, a design system is key to maintaining the consistency the brand required.

A design system should be the guiding principle and a well-defined process. But to create a truly brilliant design system, you have to craft it with the employee, user, and customer in mind. This input will guide you to a design system that works for today, and tomorrow.


At Glue, we create design systems for brands to thrive. Digital transformation is at the tips of every business leader’s tongue, but we should not forget about the physical. It has its place and its importance will never die down. It will just change and a rigorous design system will help your brand stay in front of that change.

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