Structuring Success: How teams impact design systems

Luke Finch

web developmentdesign systems

We often speak about the single source of truth within the design systems discourse. A magical place, a holy land of truth, the fountain of knowledge. The notion of a centralised and authoritative resource containing all the information and assets related to the design system. Or, in simpler terms — where the system lives. The idea of a 'Single source' suggests that there's a finite point, but in reality, truth is distributed throughout the organisation.

This truth is engrained in how we talk to each other, what we commit to code, what we mark as 'final' in our design files. As companies scale, and we think about enterprise level design systems, we end up with micro-organisations, with their own established truths. These teams have their own sets of standards.

And things happen that impact the truth:

  • Changes in business priorities

  • Restructuring and reorganisation

  • People leave and join the company

  • We learn new things

So, our notion of what the truth is changes. The conversations we have and contributions to the system change the truth.

But it's important to remember, that the truth is both personal, and communal. An individual's perspective on the system, isn't reflective of the whole truth.



Personal truth refers to an individual's subjective understnading based on their personal beliefs, experiences, and perspectives. It is shaped by factors such as their upbringing, culture, personal values, emotions, and life experiences. Personal truths are often influenced by subjective biases, and can vary greatly from person to person.

On the other hand, communal truth is the collective understanding or consensus reached by teams and organisations. Communal truth is formed through shared experiences, cultural norms, social interactions, and the exchange of ideas and information. It represents a shared understanding that is accepted and recognised by the group.

We need more people

Clearly, one person is not enough coverage to capture the truth. We need more people. We need more perspectives. We need to create teams.

An individual can only observe and influence the system from their own perspective. A team can observe and influence the system from multiple perspectives.