The universal color palette. Supporting a global design system at… | by Kevin Muldoon | Mar, 2024


In late 2023, Brad Frost proposed the creation of a Global Design System to provide a common library of web UI components for the world to use.

The Global Design System should handle 80% or more of common UI needs, not be prescriptive to any particular aesthetic look/feel, and be accessible, themeable, interoperable, extensible, intuitive, and support localization.

I’ve been creating a Global Design System for years, but instead of building UI components for the web, I’ve concentrated on token naming conventions for colors, spacing, and typography.

The World Wide Web was first opened to the public in 1991, but it was the formation of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards committee in 1994 that created the foundations for the Web’s rapid growth.

For a Global Design System to succeed, it must have standards just as the World Wide Web — most especially with token naming conventions.

Color palette standardization is particularly challenging because there are many existing color systems to choose from (Material, IBM, Adobe, and more) but none agree.

The goal of the Universal Color Palette Standard proposed in this article aligns with the original goals of the W3C Design Tokens Community Group.

“The Design Tokens Community Group’s goal is to provide standards upon which products and design tools can rely for sharing stylistic pieces of a design system at scale.”

Unfortunately, W3C-DTCG only concentrated on defining a JSON format for design tokens to be consumed by Style Dictionary.

This is much like standardizing the structure of HTTP but not the meaning of the key/values it contains, which doesn’t help create a sharable standard.

The Universal Color Palette (or Univers for short) offers 22 three-digit weights starting at 000 and ending with 999, with 500 as the middle value. Each weight…


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