Last year, I spent a bit of time forming a conference talk. My submission didn't get accepted at that time. This year, I'll be giving it another attempt. This is the abstract that I'll be submitting.
Design Tokens Demystified: Scaling how we work and the value we output
"What are Design Tokens?" It's a common question I get asked. What it is at its core is quite simple.
Design tokens represent a design choice. "Green is our brand colour".
Why it's valuable has layers. Through these layers, the following questions emerge:
- Why design tokens? Why choose them over other variables?
- Will they provide us with much benefit?
- How do we practically implement design tokens?
These are the questions I'll be journeying through this presentation. To highlight the various layers mentioned above, here's a quick summary.
Why design tokens? Why choose them over other variables?
Design tokens provide appropriate abstractions between the usage and the value.
Let's say we want a green button. We could set the button's colour to the variable
green. But there's more nuance to that design decision. We want a button that uses our brand's primary colour.
At the core, we want a green button. But arriving at that choice stems from the following:
This translates to the following design decisions:
- Green is our brand colour
- Our brand colour is our primary colour
- Our primary colour is our button colour
This abstraction leads to more efficient scaling and a shortened time horizon for getting value in front of users.
Will they provide us with much benefit?
Yes! I've already mentioned efficient scaling and a shortened time horizon. But there's more!
Several things in play get value shipped in a shorter amount of time.
- Aligning how we abstract our variables, i.e., using design tokens, allows us to communicate in a common language.
- A common language will allow us to improve cross-functional collaboration across the seams.
- The strong collaboration then leads to a more cohesive product.
Not only will we deliver value faster, but we will also deliver better value through a more cohesive product.
How do we practically implement design tokens?
The previous layers were the appetiser. How we do this is the main course. We'll explore this layer more in the presentation.