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As user interface (UI) designers hit the road to new designs, a central hub for acquiring assets provides an opportunity for smooth sailing.At the heart of the design, its cohesion and unity design system Enhance the look and feel of your designs with consistency that eliminates cognitive friction when applied to digital or print media. Throughout the anatomy of a design system, the UI toolkit serves as an overarching language that informs other important elements of design.
What do I need for a UI kit?
UI kits embody all elements and functions of digital design. For example, while browsing a website, you may come across icons and interactive widgets or buttons to submit a request – these functions can be found in UI kits, and when designers develop a website or mobile application, they can be used throughout the interface use these functions.
When dissecting the structure of a UI kit, it consists of two main parts: components and styles. Components are features that users can interact with and convey meaning and functionality—such as input fields, checkboxes, radio buttons, sliders, icons, micro-interactions, and more.
Styles, on the other hand, are the visual properties of the designs that make up these components — such as color stories, fonts and typography, and even shapes. Components and styles together form a UI toolkit, as it is the primary source for forming a brand’s visual identity.
Related: 5 Tips for Creating Innovative UX Designs
UI kit stabilizes the design process
Especially during wireframing and prototyping of interface design, combinations of UI components and elements are sometimes cobbled together from a library of pre-existing UI Kit components. Designers can choose elements to use during the prototyping phase, such as wireframes. For example, let’s say a UI designer is writing the initial steps for a design (such as a wireframe for a mobile app), but before diving into the development layer, there must be a design outline.
Tools like Adobe XD allow designers to pick and choose pre-made templates (such as login screens) and put them directly into the outline without having to develop a new screen from scratch. Not only is this convenient, but these templates are critical for moving the project along the completion trajectory, especially for time-critical projects. UI Kit stabilizes the design process with these ready-to-use elements, while also saving overhead costs.
However, even if the project is still in its infancy, you should strategically choose to pick elements from the UI kit to ensure consistency throughout. Consistency within UI elements keeps the tone of the project consistent, which can then be easily updated with consistent styles. A good design gets carefully chosen components, such as consistent navigation menus or interactive buttons, all of the same geometry, size, and color.
Related: Best Practices for Web Design Using an Iterative Approach
UI Kits and Brand Storytelling
For digital design interfaces, UI kits are a great asset to have a set of assets in one place. The company’s established UI toolkit is also important for delivering the brand’s visual story in a coherent language within the brand guidelines. Brand guidelines communicate the fundamental components of curating a brand identity, such as UI elements in a UI kit, typography, logo size/spacing, color palette, tone, and overall company attributes.
The brand guidebook reflects all the visual assets in the UI kit, which also need to reflect the tone, mission, and purpose that the brand aims to convey. For example, if a nonprofit’s brand book evokes a serious tone in its content, the UI assets in its UI kit shouldn’t be neon-colored or flashy. Instead, stick to a consistent visual kit that may be combined with circular, minimalist imagery and component styles throughout. Therefore, when choosing a new one from the UI kit, careful design decisions are important when advancing the brand story.
Related: Understanding the Power of Design and Branding
Simplify your design process
Building UI kits is like putting together pieces of a puzzle to achieve the bigger picture. Each piece should fit together perfectly to create a unified design. When starting the initial steps of the UI Kit, it is always important to consider the following:
Before piecing together the puzzle, it’s important to browse a concept stage Figure out what your design intent is going to serve, whether it aligns with the brand’s tone, or if there are any pain points that can reasonably be fixed.
Once the design intent is fully fleshed out, you can decide on the theme of the UI kit. This helps simplify the components you will select or design, and then use the consistent language to match their similar parts. When piecing together your design kit, you must also get all the major structural assets covered.
From there, designers can choose the style of their components and customize them to fit their design structure. Another good practice when piecing together a UI toolkit for stakeholders is to offer different design directions and allow them to choose whichever direction they find more beneficial for further iteration and finalization. UI kits are an offshoot of an overall design system that provides designers, users, and everyone in between with a visual language to understand and enjoy.