Minimum Viable Design Systempromotes the systematic exploitation of 3rd party resources with the goal to make a design system and its components usable as soon as possible. Depending on our specific requirements and objectives, such resources might include all kinds of open source projects, modern front-end frameworks, or asset libraries (icon sets, font families, etc.). However, relying heavily on anything that is not under our direct control exposes us to some risks that need to be addressed: The dependency on a specific resource can severely compromise our flexibility. We're at the mercy of external teams when it comes to future developments. Radical changes might require us to adapt our own implementations accordingly and the abandonment of a project or the discontinuation of vital features might even force us to jump ship entirely and look for alternatives.
Design Tokensare codified design attributes that can be defined, understood and applied by developers and designers alike. In this example, a 3rd party front-end framework (like Material-UI) is used to render all layouts and widgets for an app or a website. Below this layer, all visual attributes related to our brand design language are stored in a central
Design Tokensrepository. We use the 3rd party framework's native theming capabilities to pull all relevant values from the tokens layer and by that, apply our distinctive look and feel to the product we're building. Above the framework layer, another separate layer handles custom overrides and the definitions of additional elements—basically everything that goes beyond the framework's capabilities. This could be another CSS file or an SCSS structure.
Design Tokensfoundation. The result is a heterogeneous environment in which everything still originates from the same DNA. Changes on the
Design Tokenslayer propagate upwards, producing design consistency without stifling flexibility. We're free to explore different frameworks and approaches for different use-cases, making this architecture highly versatile and ideally suited for fast-moving teams and organizations.