UI Design

What Are Design Tokens?

If you want to create functional and practical design systems, you must familiarize yourself with a highly beneficial concept called design tokens.

Design tokens are the perfect tool for coordinating colors in your design systems, but they might seem puzzling to some designers. 

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about them – from basics and examples to their benefits and creation steps, so keep reading!

A colorful panther chameleon

What are design tokens?

Design tokens are a set of modular and reusable pieces of code that define a user interface’s design properties and values. They serve as a common language between designers and developers, allowing them to communicate and collaborate more efficiently throughout the design and development process.

Designers use design tokens to define elements like colors, typography, spacing, and other visual properties throughout a user interface. 

By creating a consistent and easily modifiable set of tokens, designers, and developers can quickly make interface changes without manually updating each element.

You can use design tokens in various design systems and workflows, including style guides, design libraries, and component-based design. 

Here’s an example of a design token for color:

What Are Design Tokens example

In this example, the design token represents three colors for a user interface. “colorPrimary” is a shade of blue, “colorSecondary” is a shade of red, and “colorBackground” is a light gray. You can reuse these color values throughout the design and development process to ensure consistency across the user interface. 

For example, you can use “colorPrimary” value for the background of a button, the border color of a form input field, and the text color of a heading. By defining these colors as design tokens, designers and developers can easily change the user interface’s color scheme without manually updating each element.

How to use design tokens?

Let’s talk about some ways to use design tokens.

Creating a design system

Design (or color) tokens are fundamental to creating a design system. Designers can ensure consistency and efficiency across multiple projects by defining a set of design tokens for colors, typography, spacing, and other visual properties.

Creating a style guide

As a product designer, you can use design tokens to create a style guide that defines a brand or product’s design guidelines and standards. This can help ensure consistency across all design and development efforts.

Component-based design

We can use these tokens to create reusable design components that can be easily modified and reused across a user interface. By creating a set of design tokens for each element, designers and developers can quickly adjust the component’s design while maintaining consistency with the rest of the user interface.

Integration with development workflows

Design tokens can be exported in various formats, such as JSON or YAML, and integrated into development workflows and tools. This makes it easy for developers to access and use the tokens in their code, ensuring consistency and reducing the risk of errors.

As we already mentioned, using design tokens is highly beneficial because it enables designers and developers to work more efficiently and collaboratively while ensuring consistency and quality across a user interface.

Color tokens example from Shopify Polaris

How to create design tokens?

Now that you covered the basics of design tokens and their benefits, let’s go through 6 vital steps to create them.

  1. Start by identifying visual elements of your design system that you want to turn into design tokens. These include colors, typography, spacing, and other visual properties.
  2. Define the values. Once you identify and establish the visual elements, define the specific values of each component. For example, determine the color values you want to use if creating a color token.
  3. Create a naming convention. Specify a naming convention that makes sense for your design system. Your naming convention could be as simple as using descriptive names for each token, or it could involve using a more structured naming convention that includes a prefix or suffix to identify the type of token.
  4. Organize your tokens. One of the essential practices is to organize the tokens in a way that makes sense for your design system. You can do that by grouping them by category or function or by creating a hierarchy that reflects the importance or priority of each token.
  5. Share the tokens. Once you have your design tokens, share them with your team or organization so that they can use them consistently across all channels.
  6. Do regular housekeeping of your tokens. As your design system evolves, it is crucial to maintain your design tokens and update them as needed to reflect any changes or updates to the design system.

By following these six steps, you will easily create a well-structured set of design tokens that will help to simplify your design process and, most importantly, ensure consistency across all channels.

Styles are organized in a team library inside a Figma

Design tokens in Figma

In Figma, design tokens are a way to centralize and manage the design properties of a user interface. Figma’s design token system allows designers to define and organize design properties, such as colors, typography, and spacing, into a single source of truth that you can share across multiple projects and teams.

Design tokens in Figma are defined using the Styles feature, which allows designers to create reusable styles for text, color, and other design properties. These styles can be organized into a library, making it easy to manage and apply them across multiple projects.

Once designers define design tokens in Figma, they can export them as a JSON or other format and then integrate them into various development workflows and tools. This allows developers to easily access and apply the design tokens in their code, ensuring consistency and reducing the risk of errors.

Figma’s design token system is a potent tool for creating and managing design systems, enabling designers and developers to work together in a harmonius way. By centralizing and standardizing design properties, design tokens can ensure consistency and improve the overall quality of a user interface.


Let’s review some key takeaways from our design or color tokens article. 

Design tokens provide a standard way to define and manage design properties, such as colors, typography, and spacing. By standardizing these properties, designers can ensure consistency across a user interface and reduce the risk of errors or inconsistencies. They can also act as a shared language between designers and developers, allowing them to communicate and collaborate more efficiently.

Moreover, by using design tokens, designers can create a library of reusable design components and styles, which can help to streamline the design process. Designers can quickly create new designs by combining existing tokens rather than starting from scratch each time.

Design tokens enable faster iteration, as designers can easily modify design properties, which speeds up the design process and allows the designers to experiment more freely.And finally, design tokens will boost the level of collaboration between designers and developers, which will eventually ensure your designs’ accurate and efficient implementation.

We hope this article covered possible gaps in understanding design tokens and colors in design systems. However, if you still want to bolster your knowledge, we highly suggest checking out our Advanced Figma Video Course!

Our comprehensive video course will teach you how to navigate complex Figma features (including styles related to tokens), create seamless UX/UI screens and flows, and reveal the best strategies and techniques that’ll help you master Figma once and for all. It contains over 100 comprehensive lessons and 110+ practical assignments that will simultaneously build your skills and confidence.

For more information regarding this highly beneficial video course, feel free to send a message via our contact form or follow us on Instagram, where you can find tons of helpful and interactive content from the world of product design.

Happy designing! 🎨

Advanced Figma Video Course

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Master advanced Figma strategies while achieving superior efficiency and productivity as a designer! Advanced Figma Video Course is a hands-on, engaging, and practical video course teaching you everything you need to know to be a confident Figma user and a better designer.

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