John Einar Sandvand
Communications Manager - Product & Tech Oslo
Published 2019-01-16

How Schibsted creates one design system for multiple news brands

Can news sites as different as Fædrelandsvennen and Aftonbladet be based on the same design elements? Yes, says the team that is building a design system for all of Schibsted´s publishers.

Step by step Schibsted´s news sites are moved to Core News Product, Schibsted´s joint platform for production, presentation, and distribution of content. The platform also includes the design system CORDS.

A small team in Stockholm, lead by UX designer Nina Felixsson, has over the last year built a foundation for how all the different news sites in Schibsted will be designed.

“Many brand designers were skeptical in the beginning. They felt the idea behind was rather abstract. But as we have started to work together, we see the benefits of collaborating across the brands, also in the design area, “ says Nina.

Joint building blocks

Design systems has become a hot topic for UX designers. Many well-known brands, such as Airbnb and Spotify, have invested heavily in building a design system. One purpose is to ensure a consistent brand experience for the customers.

In Schibsted´s case, however, the design system will work for multiple brands. “That makes what we do very unique,” says Nina.  

“To find a common design foundation for all our brands has been a challenge. It shall serve both the subscription newspapers as well as VG and Aftonbladet. And there are also some differences between Norwegian and Swedish design styles. But we feel we have come a long way this past year!”

So what is a design system? One way to look at it is as a collection of reusable design components. The purpose is both to support the technical solutions and ensure a cohesive user experience.

Designers from VG meets with the design system team in Stockholm to learn how it can be used for their brand.

Designers from VG meets with the design system team in Stockholm to learn how it can be used for their brand. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Design system already in use

Already the mobile apps of the Norwegian subscription newspapers have been built using the design system. Soon VG´s iOS app will also be launched on the same platform.

Nina explains that the team so far has focused on building a unified system of the most important design components. At the same time, it has been important to onboard the brand designers to actively use the system.

“But we are trying to build it so that the brand designers have great freedom to build upon each brand´s DNA,” she says.

One design system - but different product experiences.

One design system – but different product experiences.

The Standard

As a basis, the design system team built a generic news product called The Standard.  This “white-label” brand is complete with artwork, components, and workflow. It is meant to be a starting point for the brand designers, who then adjust the different components to their needs.

Any future changes to the design system will be moved into The Standard after a specific revision process.  This includes components developed by the designers in the different brands.

“This is maybe the biggest benefit,  that design created in one of the brand teams easily can be reused by others,” says Nina.

All designs for a new product stats with “The Standard”. Then the designer adjust all the elements to fit the specific brand´s needs.

All designs for a new product stats with “The Standard”. Then the designer adjust all the elements to fit the specific brand´s needs.

Benefits for the brands

Nina Felixsson sees many benefits for the news brands once the design system is fully in place:

  • It will be a toolbox for innovation – with a complete set of artwork and components to use for experiments.
  • The publishers don´t need to waste time on reinventing components that already exist.
  • It scales much faster. To design a new brand can be done in a matter of days.
  • The design system facilitates collaboration between the brands.
  • All components are compatible with the full Core News Product

“So far we have mostly re-created what we already have in the different news sites.  In the next phase we want to start innovating and designing user experiences we do not have today,” says Nina.

The design system team in Stockholm: Nina Felixsson, Sofia Rytterlund and Petter Säfwenberg

The design system team in Stockholm: Nina Felixsson, Sofia Rytterlund and Petter Säfwenberg. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

“Doing a fantastic job”

Peder Torget, UX lead in VG

Peder Torget

“The design system team has taken on an enormously challenging task – and is doing a fantastic job at it,” says Peder Torget, UX lead in Norway´s largest news site, VG.

The brand designers in VG have worked closely with the CORDS team during the last months to make the design system work well also for a big national news site. Already parts of VG.no, such as the opinon pages, are based on the design system.

“As far as I know, no other company in the world has made a joint design system for so many different brands. It is very hard to do well. But as we succeed, it brings the brands closer together and enables the designers in Schibsted to develop good solutions together. This is both more efficient, increases the product quality and facilitates knowledge-sharing across the brands, “ Peder says.

Design system part of scalable platform

While the design system has brought the design community in Schibsted closer to each other, there is still a way to go.  Nina Felixsson smiles when she puts it in this way:

“Before we were in different solar systems! Today we are at least in the same solar system, and maybe even on the same planet!”

Hans Martin Cramer, Head of Product, Core News Product

Hans Martin Cramer

Hans Martin Cramer, head of product for Core News Product, adds:

“A common design system is one of the key elements in building a scalable platform for editorial publications. The beauty of our design system is that it allows us to easily build components and features for one publication and scale it to all publications instantly without the need to reconfigure to fit a separate look and feel or architecture. This enables a speed of development and innovation that is unmatched.”

Communications Manager - Product & Tech Oslo
Published 2019-01-16