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6 outstanding design system examples you can clone for free

6 outstanding design system examples you can clone for free

Cloning a design system is a great way to streamline the web design process. These 6 cloneable systems will give you a head start on your next Webflow project.

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6 outstanding design system examples you can clone for free

6 outstanding design system examples you can clone for free

Cloning a design system is a great way to streamline the web design process. These 6 cloneable systems will give you a head start on your next Webflow project.

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Webflow Team

Creating a website user experience that feels effortless can be time-consuming and complex. A prebuilt design system simplifies the process.

In web design, each element — like button design, typography, and spacing — must individually and collectively enhance the site. While building all of these elements from scratch is gratifying, it’s also demanding. Using a predesigned set of components and guidelines can expedite the process, enhance your proficiency, and make it easy for other designers to collaborate with you or take over the site’s management when you finish.

That’s where a design system comes in handy.

What is a design system?

A design system is a set of prebuilt design elements and guidelines for using them that ensure all of a brand’s digital products have a consistent look, feel, and user experience (UX). By drawing on these pre-existing elements and guidelines, designers can create an ecosystem of digital products that they know are consistent with the brand’s existing published material.

Product design director Audrey Hacq calls design systems “the single source of truth” for designers developing a digital experience. While not all are equally well-developed, even basic UI/UX toolkits are a big step up from a completely blank screen.

A complete design system includes:

  • Foundations: Basic design tools like color palettes and swatches, typography guidelines, spacing principles, and illustration and animation guidelines
  • A components library: A set of user interface (UI) elements like buttons, lists, icons, and code snippets
  • A design pattern library: A collection of higher-level structures that combine multiple components, like menus, navigation bars, and image carousels
  • Branding, content, and design guidelines: Unified style manuals and design principles for maintaining consistent brand identity across platforms and mediums

The BBC Global Experience Language (GEL) is an example of a well-developed design system.

BBC GEL guidelines page
Source: BBC GEL

The GEL includes proprietary BBC-created iconography, an extensive collection of design patterns, and guides to spacing, motion design, and typography. When BBC creatives work on the website or app, they use these components according to the guidelines to align their work with the BBC brand identity.

Design systems are critical for big companies with multiple creatives, so most large brands have their own. Some well-known frameworks include:

These systems are the secret sauce comprising the brand’s unique visual language. Many are open-source, so you can freely adapt them for your designs.

The principles of design systems

If you’re looking at Airbnb’s check-in screen, Mailchimp’s header typography, or Android’s graphical user interfaces, it’s easy to forget that they all follow specific guidelines. The best design systems are well defined, follow a set of rules and design principles, and are barely perceptible as we navigate through them.

Here’s a rundown of everything that needs to be considered in a design system:

  • Design guidelines. These are the set of guides a given design system is built on. The guidelines include the objectives of a design system, the strategies behind it, and how the design system will help meet the project’s set goals.‍
  • Brand identity. These are the aesthetic choices that tie all of the elements together. Here, typography, spacing, color palettes, logos, and CSS styles are all defined so that designers know exactly how to create a web design that’s on brand. This also extends to non-visual aspects of a website, like the tone of voice.‍
  • Elements. Elements are the functional components in a design system that reflect a brand’s visual identity and follow the defined design guidelines.
  • Patterns. Patterns are the logic and structure that all elements must follow in order to stay consistent across a web design. Without patterns, things can get into disarray very quickly.

UI patterns help people navigate a website. Something like a checkbox or a date picker helps visitors complete actions. Bread crumbs and other UI elements related to navigation give users a smooth experience. No matter what type of element they may be or where they are in a design, they all need to follow a similar logic.

Why use a design system?

Using a design system is a no-brainer for large teams. The guaranteed uniformity from reusable components means that all designs provide a consistent user experience, no matter who creates them. Design systems also save time and money, as creative teams won’t have to reinvent the wheel with each new element.

Individual designers can also benefit from using a design system. These systems stop you from getting lost in the weeds with your designs: Instead of building fiddly UI components and testing multiple color palettes, you can focus on big-picture website characteristics like theming, user flows, SEO strategy, and information architecture. Accessibility best practices are also built into most design systems, so you can create an inclusive online experience without needing to check whether each element meets accessibility standards.

Why clone an existing design system?

Cloning a design system — copying it in the Webflow Designer so you can use it in your own site — offers several benefits for novice designers, freelancers, and those working with tight deadlines. It can help you:

  • Develop your skills. Using a cloned system makes early projects more manageable. It also offers a chance to understand and explore the system’s intricacies. Examining and experimenting with different design tokens can shed light on the original designers’ intentions.
  • Boost efficiency. Adopting a cloned system as a design resource streamlines and simplifies your workflow. It also aids in swiftly prototyping sites for early testing and feedback.
  • Save time. A cloned system provides a ready-made structure for your site, which you can quickly personalize into a final product.
Unleash your creativity on the web

Build completely custom, production-ready websites — or ultra-high-fidelity prototypes — without writing a line of code. Only with Webflow.

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Unleash your creativity on the web

Build completely custom, production-ready websites — or ultra-high-fidelity prototypes — without writing a line of code. Only with Webflow.

Get started for free
Get started for free

6 design systems you can clone for your next Webflow project

If you’re interested in using an existing design system to structure your next web project, you’re in luck: Webflow designers offer a range of cloneable systems to give you a head start on your projects.

To explore the following design system examples, open the live website to experience each element as a user would. You can click on buttons, type your name into forms, and select options from dropdown menus. If you like the experience, clone the site in the Webflow Designer and experiment with making changes.

Remember, the exact design language of your chosen system doesn’t confine your creativity. When you have it open in the Designer, you can customize existing attributes as much as you like.

1. Cloneable Carbon Design System

Screen grab of the building blocks page of the Carbon Design System
Source: Cloneable Carbon Design System

CJ Hersh’s cloneable Carbon Design System is a comprehensive set of UI components, design patterns, and code snippets with an aesthetic inspired by IBM’s Carbon Design System. This well-organized design system works well if you’re looking for more advanced functionality, like file uploading, progress indicators, and basic UI elements.

2. Chainlift

Screen grab of color palettes in the Chainlift design system
Source: Chainlift

Garrett Mack, the founder of the design agency Chainlift, offers a cloneable Chainlift design system based on Material 3, the current version of Google’s Material Design system. Chainlift’s system includes a carefully calibrated color palette, text styles, UI components, layout templates, and card elements with different levels of elevation and shadow.

3. Clement Sinz’s Design-System template

Screen grab of UI design elements in Clement Sinz’s design system template.
Source: Clement Sinz

The Design-System template by Clement Sinz is a clean, modern-looking design system that includes accordions, layers, tabs, header and paragraph text styles in the highly legible Inter typeface, menus, flexbox grids, and the option to embed videos.

4. Nikolai Bain’s Startr style guide

Screen grab of Startr style guide showing the forms design pattern
Source: Startr

The Startr style guide by Nikolai Bain is a UI kit made up of understated elements that are gentle on the eyes, including buttons with rounded edges, spacers, text boxes of different sizes, and tabs. This framework also includes icons from the Phosphor icon pack.

5. Adrien Lexington’s design system

Screen grab from Adrien Lexington’s design system showing responsive flexbox grid options
Source: Adrien Lexington

Created by Adrien Lexington, the design system includes a style guide with color palettes and text styling, a rich text element, and even a few UX interactions in the form of hover effects. It also includes containers, flexbox grids, and various alignment options.

6. Tim Dalrymple’s landing page system template

Screen grab of the landing page system template
Source: Landing page system

Tim Dalrymple’s landing page system template is particularly useful for designers whose clients want to see or A/B test multiple versions. The landing page system template includes a link to a blog post that walks you through how to use it.

Use design systems as a springboard to more cohesive designs

The best design systems are a distillation of the design knowledge of an expert designer or team of designers. Whether you clone these examples to use for your site or learn how to build your own, design systems are building blocks that can help you become a better designer.

Itching to learn more? Check out Webflow University’s library of lessons covering everything you need to know about web design. And if you run into questions about how to customize or use a cloneable design system, pop into our Webflow Forum to chat and problem-solve with other web designers working in Webflow.

Last Updated
July 21, 2023
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