Sanofi Drives Design Simplification While Balancing Regulatory Requirements

Design is a delicate balancing act in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals. While rising consumer expectations push companies to deliver richer experiences and improve the value of customer interactions, industry regulations exert an opposite force. Big pharma companies must follow guidelines around prescription drug advertising and promotion to consumers, including how and where to properly present safety information on websites and in other marketing materials, which can limit the options for creatives.

For pharmaceutical companies to become more efficient and meet the needs of healthcare providers and patients, they must address regulatory requirements while adopting strategies to quickly create and deliver vital information.

Sanofi is one company tackling this challenge head on. As one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies by market share, Sanofi offers a wide range of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and vaccines. In order to keep the many different audiences informed about products, Sanofi must create a multitude of websites and other digital marketing materials. To keep up with the rapid pace of development, the company recently simplified its website processes with a combination of a new design system and design templates created in Adobe XD.

The design and development process became simpler as the team stopped approaching every website as a custom build and began streamlining knowledge transfer by standardizing common elements, providing guidelines for the user experience, and defining rules for website regulatory requirements. According to Ryan Rosenberg, Digital Design and User Experience (UX) Capability Lead at Sanofi, a design system simply makes sense, especially as there are a multitude of creative agencies working on Sanofi web design projects at any given time.

“With a design system, we allow our agency partners to focus on what they’re good at—the creative campaign and messaging—rather than figuring out where the important safety information should go, what text goes in the header and footer, and so on,” says Rosenberg. “As a result, we’re seeing significant cost savings and efficiency gains.”

From idea to execution with the right tool

The idea of a design system sprang from a brainstorming session in which Sanofi leadership challenged Rosenberg and his team to identify new tools to simplify and optimize the web design processes.

“Once we optimized the design process, the next logical step was to start looking at software,” says Rosenberg. “At Adobe MAX last year, I sat down with the Adobe XD team and discovered that it could really help solve our challenges around web design and development. We already use Adobe Creative Cloud apps, so learning to leverage Adobe XD was seamless for our teams and agencies.”

By building a template with commonly used creative assets in Adobe XD, designers can avoid recreating standard design elements. When the design is finished, they don’t have to create a spec doc to capture fonts, colors, dimensions, images, and other elements. They simply auto-generate design specs and share via a link with the development team.

Design system and templates reduce costs by 52%

To find out if the new design system and templates drove efficiency gains, the Sanofi team did a comparison. Looking at two recently completed web design projects where only one used the design system and templates, the project that used the new approach saw a reduction in creative costs by 52%.

Sanofi is also seeing significant savings on development as well. The team is leveraging reusable code modules for common website elements such as tab features, accordion components, and video players. By requiring developers to use these prebuilt components, Sanofi can dramatically reduce custom coding.

Changing habits and minds

With every big process change comes the hard work of changing habits. Templates make it easy for agencies to start using the design system immediately, but Sanofi still needed to get them on board.

Rosenberg explains, “I sat down with each of our creative agencies and talked to them about Adobe XD. Most of them were quick to recognize the benefits, but we needed a spark to get them to make a change from the original design tool. We hosted a two-day workshop for our agencies and internal stakeholders—about 30 people onsite and another 40 to 50 listening online,” Rosenberg says. “The Adobe XD team was a big help during this process and answered many questions from our agency partners.”

Since the workshop, the team has received great feedback from agencies, who are adapting quickly to the new approach. It’s a promising transformation for Sanofi and appears to be spreading beyond web design and development. Impressed by the speed and agility, Rosenberg’s team is now being challenged to provide templates to simplify creating email, display banner ads, and other digital marketing materials.

Rosenberg is optimistic about that enthusiasm, saying, “Design is a superpower that can be used to deliver real impacts to the business. It’s not just about colors and typeface. It can act as a strategic lever to increase efficiency and improve the bottom line.”

Sanofi uses Adobe XD as part of a comprehensive design system, which guides the development of customer experiences that are both creative and compliant.