Design Systems or Systems of Harm?

Max Stepanov
7 min readNov 30, 2023

Design systems have revolutionized UX and product design, however, they can inadvertently perpetuate systemic harm if not inclusively designed.

🟢 The Dual Nature of Design Systems

Design systems, with their focus on consistency and efficiency, have revolutionized UX and product design. However, they can inadvertently perpetuate systemic harm if not inclusively designed. While beneficial in streamlining processes, the quest for uniformity should not override the need for accessibility and inclusivity. A design system that excludes or marginalizes certain users due to its rigid conformity can end up reinforcing existing societal biases.

🟢 Principles of Inclusive Design Systems

Inclusive design principles are guidelines that help designers create products and experiences accessible to, and usable by, as broad audience as possible, regardless of age, gender, abilities, or cultural background. This approach enhances user experience and satisfaction, expands the potential market for a product, and promotes social inclusivity. I propose to divide those principles into the major groups:

1. Team’s Diversity. Inclusivity begins with the creators. A diverse team brings a plethora of perspectives, essential for creating systems that cater to a wider audience.

2. Personal & Organizational Biases. Self-awareness of cognitive biases is crucial. Unrecognized biases can influence design decisions, affecting inclusivity.

3. Stress Cases. Focusing on stress cases, or extreme use scenarios, can reveal hidden biases and accessibility issues in design systems, ensuring that the needs of marginalized or differently-abled users are addressed.

4. Intentional Complexity. Acknowledging diverse user needs adds layers to design systems. Instead of shying away, embracing this complexity can lead to more robust and inclusive solutions.

5. Product’s Impact. Consider the various impacts your product may have on diverse users and ensure that solutions are not harmful.

🟢 Tackling Bias in the Design Process

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Max Stepanov

Design Lead| MBA| Ph.D.| Human-Computer Interaction specialist| Experience in Product Development and Digital Communications🦄 www.linkedin.com/in/outmn/