Atomic Design: Building Scalable Design Systems

Apr 12, 2023Eugenia Sorgetti

Atomic design has gained immense popularity among designers and product teams since its creation in 2013 by Brad Frost. This design methodology is highly effective for creating and maintaining design systems that are scalable, reusable, and consistent.

Atomic design offers a user-friendly approach that breaks down complex user interfaces into smaller, more manageable components. This approach is highly flexible and can be used for designing interfaces across a wide range of digital products, including websites, mobile apps, and other digital interfaces.

By leveraging Atomic design, designers can create highly effective and efficient design systems that allow for more seamless collaboration and communication across teams. Ultimately, Atomic design has become a critical component of modern design practices, helping designers to create user interfaces that are not only visually stunning but also highly functional and user-friendly.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at Atomic design, how it works, and its best practices.

The five stages of Atomic Design

Atomic design is made up of five stages, each building on the previous stage:

  1. Atoms
  2. Molecules
  3. Organisms
  4. Templates
  5. Pages


Let's dive into the world of Atomic Design, where everything is broken down into smaller components, starting with atoms. Atoms are the building blocks of a design system and represent the smallest elements, such as buttons, icons, and input fields. These tiny components are the foundation for all design work and can be easily reused across multiple designs.


Next up, we have molecules, which are combinations of atoms that form larger, more complex components, such as search bars or navigation menus. These components have a specific function within a design and can be reused across multiple designs as well.


Moving up the hierarchy, we have organisms, which are combinations of atoms and molecules that form distinct sections or functional areas of a design, such as a product card or a feature set. Organisms represent more complex components that can be used across multiple pages or templates.


Templates are reusable layouts that define the overall structure and style of a page, without including specific content. They provide a framework for designers to work within and can be used across multiple pages to ensure consistency in the overall look and feel of the design.


Finally, pages represent the finished product, incorporating all of the above components into a fully-realized user interface. Pages can be thought of as specific instances of a template, with unique content and functionality.

In summary, Atomic Design breaks down complex user interfaces into smaller, more manageable components, starting with atoms and building up to larger components like organisms, templates, and pages. By breaking designs down into these smaller components, designers can create a library of reusable design elements that can be easily combined to create new designs, ultimately resulting in a more efficient and consistent design process.

The Importance of Naming Conventions

Naming conventions are a critical aspect of Atomic Design. To ensure consistency and avoid confusion, it's essential to establish clear and consistent naming conventions for all components.

For instance, it's common to use a prefix to indicate the type of component, such as "btn" for buttons, "card" for cards, or "nav" for navigation.

Similarly, it's important to use clear and descriptive names that convey the function of each component, such as "primary-button" or "featured-product-card". By using consistent and descriptive naming conventions, designers can quickly and easily locate the components they need and ensure that the design system remains organized and easy to use.

As an example, when working with a button component in Atomic Design, there are various names that can be assigned to the different levels of the component hierarchy:

  • Atoms: "btn-icon", "btn-text", "btn-primary", "btn-secondary"
  • Molecules: "search-btn", "login-btn", "share-btn", "menu-btn"
  • Organisms: "product-btn-group", "form-btn-group", "nav-btn-group"
  • Templates: "checkout-template", "landing-page-template"
  • Pages: "home-page", "product-page", "contact-page"

Best Practices for Atomic Design

  • Use a design tool like Figma or Sketch to create your Atomic Design library. This will make it easier to create, manage, and share your design system with others.
  • Keep your design system up-to-date. As your product evolves, your design system should evolve with it. Make sure to regularly review and update your design system to ensure it remains relevant.
  • Focus on consistency. Atomic Design is all about creating consistent design elements that can be reused throughout your product. Make sure your design system is consistent across all pages and screens.
  • Document your design system. Create a style guide or documentation that explains how to use each element in your design system. This will make it easier for other designers to use your design system.
  • Test your design system. Make sure your design system is tested across multiple devices and platforms. This will help ensure your design system works well for all users.

Figma: The Perfect Tool for Implementing Atomic Design Principles

Figma is an amazing tool that perfectly complements the Atomic Design methodology for designers who want to create and maintain scalable and reusable design systems. With Figma's component library, designers can easily build and organize their reusable components, like buttons or cards, into a shared library that can be accessed and used across different files and projects.

What's more, Figma's auto-layout functionality is a real lifesaver when it comes to creating responsive designs that automatically adjust the layout of components based on screen size or orientation.

With Figma's features and Atomic Design principles, designers can build design systems that are modular, easy to maintain, and endlessly adaptable.

Advantages of Atomic Design


Atomic Design helps designers create consistent designs that are easy to modify and update. This consistency makes it easier for users to navigate and use your product.


The modular approach of creating a library of reusable design elements makes it easy for designers to scale their design systems as their products grow. This way, designers can quickly create new designs without having to start from scratch. By using a modular design system, designers can also ensure consistency in their designs and maintain a cohesive brand identity.


Atomic Design helps designers create a more efficient design process, reducing the amount of time and effort required to create new designs. By reusing design elements, designers can focus on creating new, unique designs, rather than reinventing the wheel.


Creating a shared design system through Atomic Design makes collaboration and design sharing more efficient. By providing a standardized set of design components, designers can reduce the time and effort needed to create new designs, streamline the design process, and work together more effectively.


In conclusion, Atomic Design is a powerful methodology for creating and maintaining design systems. It offers many advantages, including scalability, efficiency, consistency, and collaboration.

By breaking down designs into smaller, reusable components, designers can create consistent designs that are easy to modify and update. Atomic Design also helps designers create a more efficient design process, reducing the amount of time and effort required to create new designs.

With tools like Figma and Sketch, designers can create and manage their Atomic Design libraries, making it easy to share and collaborate with others. Overall, Atomic Design is a valuable approach for any designer looking to create a more structured and efficient design system.

Eugenia Sorgetti

Eugenia Sorgetti

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