Design Process
min read
July 11, 2023
June 15, 2022

Why Design Systems are a Necessity for Universities

Why Design Systems are a Necessity for Universities
Table of contents

The brand is the story of every product. That’s why high-growth enterprises invest in a design system to develop a unique and memorable brand to attract consumers. Design systems help create a consistent user experience across their products and streamline their product development process. 

Product-focused companies like Google, Salesforce, and Spotify use customized design systems to deliver exceptional digital experiences. Similarly, we have custom-built design systems for multiple businesses in retail, e-commerce, legal, technology, and other industries, to create or reinvent their branding and provide consistent customer experiences across all digital touchpoints.

What about higher education? Do universities need a brand? After all, education is their story. Right? Wrong! Universities are a complex system of students, educators, and administrators with individual departments, schools, and leadership. To present themselves as an integrated front, universities need to deliver unique experiences that satisfy the demands of the varied audience and align those experiences to the overall institution. 

Branding is essential for universities to create a distinct identity among competition while delivering a consistent experience for their audience. We have crafted design systems for universities as well. Our live case studies prove that universities can benefit greatly from design systems in building a unique brand to tell their story. Let’s first understand what is a design system and then learn why it is a necessity for universities. 

Design Systems - Brand in Action

A design system is a collection of reusable components and guidelines for designing and building digital products. Businesses use design systems to create consistent, scalable, and cohesive user interfaces.

A design system helps reduce the time and cost of design and development by providing a library of components that can be reused and customized. They can also improve the quality of products by ensuring that they are consistent and meet user needs.

Why Universities face Brand Inconsistency

Brand consistency is one of the biggest challenges facing universities today. Inconsistent branding impacts the university's reputation negatively and brings down credibility. Let's consider three significant reasons for brand inconsistency at universities. 

Complex Institutions

With multiple campuses and a statewide university system, it can be demanding to keep track of all the different branding elements and ensure they are consistent across the university. It can lead to confusion and frustration for students, faculty, staff, and potential students trying to learn more about the university.

Decentralized Decisions

Different departments and schools within the university may have varying goals and objectives, making it hard to maintain a consistent brand identity. Additionally, the ever-changing landscape of education and the constantly evolving needs of students can make it tough to keep the brand relevant and consistent over time. 

Dislike towards Marketing

University administrators and faculty think that marketing their brand is wasteful in terms of financial resources. Many universities feel that they are not getting a return on their investment in marketing and that the resources should be spent on other priorities. Moreover, university self-promotion often fails to reach its target audience and is often ineffective in persuading students to enroll in a university.

How Design Systems Build Brand for Universities

Create a Memorable Brand

Design systems can provide universities with a memorable brand identity. By creating a set of guidelines that cover all aspects of the university's visual communications, from the logo and color palette to the typography and photography style, a design system ensures that the university's brand is consistent and recognizable across all channels. 

It can be a valuable asset in today's competitive marketplace, where potential students have a wide range of options when choosing a university. Building a recognizable brand can help a university stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of the best and brightest students.

Deliver Structure and Freedom of Expression

Design systems provide a framework for universities to create cohesive and expressive visual identities. These systems offer both structure and freedom of expression, allowing universities to build unique and differentiated branding that can be applied across a wide range of applications. 

Design systems can help streamline the process of creating and maintaining a visual identity and provide a valuable resource for university marketing and communications teams.

Promote Brand Consistency

By establishing a set of design standards, universities can ensure that their branding is applied consistently across their websites. It helps create a powerful brand identity that is easily recognized by students, staff, and the general public. 

By using pre-approved design elements, universities can create communications quickly and easily, ensuring brand consistency across multiple channels. 

Focus on Long-Term Goals

A design system is a valuable tool for achieving long-term goals. By centralizing design resources and establishing clear guidelines, a design system enables universities to focus on solving problems rather than spending more time on design and branding. 

Design systems also connect internal apps, such as an intranet, mobile applications, and course research. Every department can access a centralized resource center to set the design and functionality of new digital initiatives or solutions instead of trying to secure additional time and resources.

Align Everyone on the Same Page

Design systems in universities provide a shared source of truth for designers and stakeholders, which help to collaborate efficiently and make decisions faster. This methodology enables quicker updates of UI and components across the digital ecosystem. 

Multiple content editors can access the latest versions and stay on the same page by having a central repository for design assets and guidelines. It speeds up the design process and helps university departments to work together more effectively.

Rollout Experiences Faster

Design systems improve digital assets’ (websites, webpages, portals & mobile apps) development speed and efficiency. By documenting and standardizing design elements, design systems provide a roadmap for universities to follow, which can help them move faster and avoid making mistakes. 

Additionally, design systems help protect universities' valuable resources, such as time and money, by reducing the need for custom designs and ensuring that new features are developed consistently and reliably.

Enable Better Collaboration

Design systems provide a shared language and set of standards for teams to use when collaborating on digital experiences. By establishing a common foundation, design systems can help streamline communication and improve efficiencies between dev and business teams and within dev teams.

Design systems are not a panacea, but when used correctly, they can be a powerful tool for teams to collaborate easily and avoid duplication of effort.

Promote Blended Learning

Design systems are an essential part of blended learning at universities. By incorporating design thinking into the curriculum, universities can better prepare students for the workforce. Design systems help students to think critically and creatively, as well as to collaborate effectively. In addition, design systems can promote a more personal and engaging learning experience.

Universities that Realized the Potential of Design Systems

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Design System for Universities - Stanford GSB

The Stanford Graduate School of Business uses a design system built by QED42. Based on users’ preferences and usage patterns across all its applications, including its mobile app, GSB provides a consistent and personalized experience to all students. GSB also uses interconnected platforms to help students navigate through different courses, build a course schedule, and register for selected courses effortlessly. 

University of Edinburgh

Design System for Universities - University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh has implemented a university-wide design system so that prospective students can navigate easily between the main website, school website pages, degree finder page, and accommodation services page. The university website offers a consistent and coordinated digital experience for all those who navigate its website.  

West Virginia University

Design System for Universities - West Virginia University

West Virginia University adopted a design system to remove the inconsistencies across the WVU websites. The system was created with input from designers across its campus meeting their needs and providing a robust pattern library with ample flexibility to build branding with new style elements. 

Why University Branding is Essential

University branding helps communicate the values of higher education to students and their families. The unique and branded visual identity sets the expectation of the university experience for students and prospects. 

  • Brand consistency builds trust and recognition in universities
  • Branding creates value for universities
  • Branding boosts enrollment 

A design system helps standardize the look and feel of university websites and applications, making it easier for students and staff to use them. It also speeds up the development process, as designers and developers can reuse components from the system instead of having to start from scratch each time. In short, a design system can save universities time and money and create a more consistent and user-friendly experience for students and staff.

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