Avery Dennison reaches enterprise-level design system scalability with Zeplin
Many of you may know Avery Dennison as the company behind the labels we see today, but did you know they also do apparel branding, RFID inlays, and even specialty medical products? The global manufacturing company owes its success to continuous design innovation and consistently delivering exceptional products experiences across platforms — whether physical or digital.
Their product team, the core of innovation within the organization, found that the best way to continue growing and meeting customer needs was by having a scalable design system catering to all of their teams. Zeplin has been a critical part of how they achieved this by being a centralized platform for design system documentation, collaboration, and adoption.
We were excited to connect with Tommy Perez, Senior Product Designer at Avery Dennison, at Zeplin's Harmony user summit, as he talked about how his team adjusted their design system processes in light of major shifts in retail, one of the main industries his team serves. Retail businesses are rapidly shifting from traditional core labels to integrated digital solutions, and this pushed Tommy's team to redefine their design system to keep up with this digital transformation while prioritizing long-term scalability.
Learn how they restarted their design system from scratch, along with the four areas of impact they focused on, and how Zeplin unified their entire product team along the way.
Four impactful areas for design system scalability
The design team at Avery Dennision had a goal to create a unique, scalable digital-first design system process that worked alongside their company vision, design philosophy, and principles. With this in mind, Tommy's team identified four core ways to transform their thinking and make the most impact as a product team:
1.Identifying systems and software: Those working at large enterprises know there are many requirements for systems and software. Tommy's team needed to identify the areas that required updates or upgrades, enabling them to focus their efforts where they mattered most.
2.Forming a scalable design team: They aimed to establish a scalable design team capable of delivering exceptional designs across devices, form factors, and platforms globally. Their goal was to provide high-quality designs not only for their own team but also for their customers.
3.Creating an ownable design system: While many design systems aim to offer useful practices and libraries, Tommy's team wanted to develop a system encompassing strength, clarity, and effective communication — a comprehensive solution that can adapt to every use case and one that is truly owned by their product team.
4.Enabling and empowering teams: Last, they aimed to empower and enable their teams through tools and resources. By breaking down silos and demonstrating the value the design system could bring to each team, they fostered collaboration and ensured everyone had support.
One of the biggest challenges was seamlessly integrating the design system into existing workflows while actively managing projects and operations. They were grappling with questions like: How do we effectively share and implement the design system across the entire business? How do we incorporate it into other team initiatives? The team created a system that accounted for everyone's needs by focusing on these four core areas.
Zeplin’s role in enterprise design system scalability
A single source of truth for design system documentation
One major lesson Tommy and his team learned during this process is that having one single source of truth is integral for a design system to provide value. Designers and developers need to have a common space for design system resources and pull component information from that source.
Zeplin came into play by acting as that essential source of truth. It became his team’s go-to space to document their design system and their product vision for the build. With Zeplin, their designers and developers don't have to wonder which component to use or ask, "Is this the final design?"
By using Zeplin, Avery Dennison’s product team bridged the alignment gap that often exists in large multi-functional product teams like theirs who struggle with design system adoption and success at scale.
When building our design system, we maintained a strong connection between design, code, and the business. This wasn't necessarily our goal; it happened organically and improved our communication.
Senior Product Designer at Avery Dennison
Design-to-development workflow integrations
Zeplin's powerful workspace integrations with Jira and Storybook help Tommy and his product team get even more value out of Zeplin as a source of truth. Connecting designs and components in Zeplin directly with their workflows in Jira allows their developers to build even faster — without having to jump back and forth between tools.
And Zeplin’s Storybook integration makes for even more efficiency gains by enabling developers to compare the visual accuracy of design components in Zeplin with their code counterparts in Storybook in real-time.
With the help of Zeplin, we're rolling out e-commerce apps in weeks instead of months, native apps in days instead of weeks, and prototype and create concepts in just a few hours.
Senior Product Designer at Avery Dennison
What's next for their design system?
With their new design system in place following these four areas of impact, cross-team collaboration and efficiency have significantly improved for Tommy's team. They're now focusing on the future and asking questions like: What's missing? Where else can we go? What else can we do?
Their focus remains on growth, tackling big-picture challenges like innovation and global distribution. They aim to improve documentation practices across teams and functions and optimize research methods. With a new and robust design system in place, they're set up to tackle any task at hand. Regardless of how their design system adapts over time, they'll continue to put their people and their customers first — their most valuable assets.
Focus on the outcomes and that will help you develop your purpose. We are better when we work together and put others ahead of ourselves.