Design Systems and Government

undergraduate design systems

PUBLISHED Friday 27 May 2022 at 12:36PM

During my final year at University I was able to take a course which let undergraduate students explore their own independent computer science project. This project could theoretically be anything (app, website), however was commonly a thesis or research project.

Under the supervision of a professor which specialized in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) research I was able to undertake a research project exploring Design Systems. More specifically, out of my desire to combine my interest in politics and the public sector, I looked at Design Systems and their use within governments for so-called “e-Government” initiatives.

This cursory look into design systems and their use in e-Government initiatives resulted in the paper & presentation below, entitled: An Analysis Into Design Systems, Their Evolution And Their Use In Government.

This paper and presentation provides a quick overview and description of Design Systems and their uses and compares design systems used by the Government of Canada, as well as the Government of the United Kingdom, comparing them to industry leaders such as the Material Design System. The abstract is listed below.


Internet use over the past twenty years has grown at an exponential rate worldwide and by all estimates, shows no signs of stopping. Canada alone, saw nearly 57% of households connected to the Internet in 2003, with that number nearly doubling to 92% in just over two decades, in 2020. This ever-increasing rate of adoption has pushed many governments to transition their traditionally offline presence, online. This, however, has presented a new set of challenges for these traditionally offline organizations to tackle; how do you have a user friendly, unified, and consistent presence in the digital realm? The answer to this complex question for many governments in 2022 is to follow in the path of industry and take on creating their own design systems to manage and unify their digital presence. This paper aims to explore what exactly design systems are, their history, what constitutes a “basic design system”, as well as exploring the current design system created by the Government of Canada. Additionally, this paper will compare the design system offered by the Government of Canada to that offered by the Government of the United Kingdom and by industry, with the aim of acting as a primer into design systems, analysing their current state in government (with suggestions of improvements), and exploring the challenges they face to improve them.