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Manage Design Tokens in Eleventy

One interesting aspect of the Duet Design System is that they use Eleventy to not only generate their reference website but also to generate their Design Tokens.

When I think about it, this makes sense. Eleventy is basically a sausage-machine; you put stuff in, tell it how you want it to transform that stuff, and you get something new out the other end. This isn’t just for markdown-to-HTML, but for a variety of formatA-to-formatB transformation needs… including, for example, using JSON to generate CSS.

Now this is definitely a more basic approach than using a design token tool like StyleDictionary. StyleDictionary handles lots of low-level stuff that would otherwise be tricky to implement. So I’m not suggesting that this is a better approach than using StyleDictionary. However it definitely feels pretty straightforward and low maintenance.

As Heydon Pickering explains, it also opens up the opportunity to make the Design Tokens CMS-editable in Netlify CMS without content editors needing to go near the code.

So you’d have a tokens.json file containing your design tokens, but it’d be within the same repo as your reference website. That’s probably not as good as having the tokens in a separate repo and making them available as a package, but of course a separate 11ty repo is an option too if you prefer.

For a smaller site at least, the “manage design tokens with 11ty” is a nice option, and I think I might give it a try on my personal website.

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