Design tokens

What are design tokens?

Design tokens capture raw values that represent user interface design styling decisions, such as color or font size, with variables under a consistent naming structure that conveys purpose and intent.

Design tokens are language-agnostic, and can be translated to any environment. On Firefox for desktop, variables are represented in CSS.

For example, moz-toggle uses several design tokens. Here are a few:

Component token Alias of token Value
--toggle-width --size-item-large 32px
--toggle-background-color-pressed --color-accent-primary --color-blue-50(#0060df)
--toggle-border-radius --border-radius-circle 9999px

Although the design tokens methodology is industry-wide, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Therefore, our design tokens are defined and implemented for the purposes of serving Firefox UI. This document should capture everything you need to know about our design system’s design tokens.

The goal is for all of us who work on Firefox to share a common and maintainable system for how we refer to and consume UI styles, and for Firefox UI to be styled consistently.


The following documentation borrows from Nathan Curtis’ essay on Naming Design Tokens.

Design tokens’ variable names follow a taxonomy with distinct classification levels and sublevels, forming a prescriptive vocabulary of descriptive terms which are classified by category.

Our design system taxonomy has distinct classifiction levels and sublevels. There are four high level buckets: Ecosystem, Object, Category, and Modifier. Within the Ecosystem bucket is one sublevel: Domain. Within the Object bucket are three sublevels: Pattern, Component, and Element. Within the Category bucket are three sublevels: Type, Concept, and Property. Within the Modifier bucket are three sublevels: Variant, State, and Scale. Each of these levels and sublevels are explained in further detail after this graphic.


The ecosystem level helps describe the context that a token is scoped to.


A token is only prefixed with a domain when there is a need to specify its context.

For example, if a token is specific to a certain feature, you can use the domain level to specify the name of the feature that it belongs to. Don’t forget to keep domain-specific tokens within the feature’s CSS so that they can only be reused within its domain.

Example from browser/components/shopping/content/shopping-container.css:

Example showing "shopping" as the 'Domain' part of the "shopping-header-font-size" token


The object level helps define the object (or objects) that the token applies to.


A design pattern that is composed of, or represents, multiple related components.

Example showing "input" as the 'Pattern' part of the "input-text-min-height" token


The component name.

Example showing "toggle" as the 'Component' part of the "toggle-background-color" token

Nested element

Any element that may be nested within a component (e.g. an icon).

Example showing "icon" as the 'Nested Element' part of the "message-bar-icon-color" token


The category level helps define the visual style that apply to the token.


The type of style category a design token belongs to.

Example showing "color" as the 'Type' part of the "color-blue-50" token


A concept further describes user interface styles. They are either industry-wide patterns, or they are terms determined by our team based on specific user interface style needs. For example, “accent” is a common design industry term used for deliniating a brand’s or product’s accent color(s) that we happen to use for our color tokens.

Example showing "accent" as the 'Concept" part of the "color-accent-primary" token

To further illustrate this taxonomy level, here are detailed explanations and definitions of existing concepts:


We use the “accent” color concept for referring to our brand and the operating system (platform) accent colors. The brand and platform accent colors are used as the primary color for accentuating and characterizing several Firefox UI elements’ (e.g. buttons, focus outlines, links, icons, and more).


We use the “interactive” concept to describe design tokens that pertain to interactive elements. For example, --border-color-interactive is used on moz-toggle since interactive elements such as toggles, radios, and checkboxes share the same border color pattern that is different from our default border color.

/* moz-toggle.css */
--toggle-border-color: var(--border-color-interactive);

We use the “item” concept as a modifier on top of the “size” type tokens group to refer to different interface items, or elements, that often rely on the same standard width and height dimensions. The word item should imply that this is a small sizing scale dedicated for dimensions that get applied to smaller UI pieces such as icons, logos, and avatars, as opposed to large compositions or areas such as the width set for onboarding illustrations, or the width of a sidebar or main column within a page’s template.

/* tokens-shared.css */
--size-item-small: 16px;
--size-item-large: 32px;


A property (e.g. size, width, color, fill) further describes a design tokens’ style, although this is not to be confused with the categorical type of token mentioned above, albeit they often use similar terms. Note that sometimes properties are double-worded, and that’s totally fine (e.g. min-width, background-color)

Example showing "border-radius" as the 'Property' part of the "border-radius-circle" token


The modifier level helps further classify a design token’s characteristic with further specification.


A variant specifies a token from a group of tokens related by a common meaning but that have varying purpose.

Two examples:one showing "success" as the 'Variant' part of the "icon-color-success" token. another showing "critical" as the 'Variant' part of the "icon-color-critical" token.


A state defines possible intereactive states of a design token. (e.g. hover, active, focus, disabled)

Example showing "hover" as the 'State' part of the "button-background-color-hover" token


A scale defines a collection of tokens that relate to one another’s but vary by their type, such as a collection of size units, or any other relationship that requires differentiating tokens by a determined scale.

Example showing "small" as the 'Scale' part of the "font-size-small" token

Today we have scales based off a sequence of numbers or t-shirt sizing.

We use a sequence numbers for collections that have attributes that change as the number goes up, such as colors getting darker.

Number-based scale grows by 10:

  • 10

  • 20

  • 30

  • 40

  • 50

  • 60

  • and so on…

For collections that do have sizing relationships, we use t-shirt sizing names:

  • xsmall

  • small

  • medium

  • large

  • xlarge

  • xxlarge

  • and so on…

These are some of our font sizes as an example:

/* tokens-brand.css */
--font-size-root: 15px;
--font-size-small: 0.867rem;  /* 13px */
--font-size-large: 1.133rem;  /* 17px */
--font-size-xlarge: 1.467rem; /* 22px */

You will see that the font size scale is missing what would be a logical “medium” size in between “small” and “large”, and that it has a --font-size-root within it too; that’s because we use more specific words within scales that contain tokens that serve a specific purpose within that scale.

The --font-size-root token was created for specific use under the document’s :root in order to set the default font size for our relative typography scale. We label our default font size token as root in order to be specific and intentional.

Example showing "root" being the 'Scale' part of the "font-size-root" token

It’s okay to include intentional terms within scales that better represent the meaning of a value and when to use it. For example, our border radius collection, which uses t-shirt sizing, also mixes the ‘circle’ option within its scale in order to describe a border radius that will create a circular effect:

Example showing "circle" being the 'Scale' part of the "border-radius-circle" token

Naming guidelines

The goal of design tokens naming is modularity and legibility.

An example showing the "brand-color-accent" token. "brand" is part of the 'Domain' ecosystem, while "color" and "accent" belong to 'Type' and 'Concept' sublevel of Category respectively.

Meanings and the relationship between meanings can be complex, therefore taxonomy levels are chained to provide clarity. (see example above)

The example above also helps illustrate that not all levels are required when naming a token. A name just needs enough levels to imply the token’s use and define its meaning. Different combinations of different levels helps us arrive at meaningful names.

Names shouldn’t be redundant and should be kept simple. They should only include enough levels to describe and communicate the token’s intent and purpose.

How it works

The desktop tokens system serves our browser’s two different ecosystems, the chrome and in-content (about:) pages, since they don’t always share the same styling decisions, and consequently, values.

The chrome of the browser is styled to look and feel like it belongs to the user’s operating system, and to also support theming. Therefore typography and color rules are different from the rest of our application features that load within in-content pages.

Token files

Token files are stored in the design-system folder within toolkit/themes/shared.

Tokens are split between three stylesheets: brand, platform, and shared.

└── toolkit
    └── themes
        └── shared
            └── design-system
                ├── tokens-brand.css
                ├── tokens-platform.css
                └── tokens-shared.css

A token’s context is the key to understanding the relationship between these stylesheets. If a token isn’t set at the shared level, that means that it has different values between brand and platform contexts.

Shared tokens (tokens-shared.css) are imported into brand tokens (tokens-brand.css) and platform tokens (tokens-platform.css).

common-shared.css imports tokens-brand.css so that in-content/about: pages can make use of our brand values, while global-shared.css, which styles the chrome, imports tokens-platform.css so that the chrome can access operating system and themeable values.

A diagram of the token files' hierarchy. Tokens-shared.css is imported by both tokens-brand.css and tokens-platform.css. There are two branches now, tokens-brand and tokens-platform. For the tokens-brand branch, these tokens are then imported by common-shared.css which then styles in-content pages. For the tokens-platform branch, these tokens are imported by global-shared.css which then styles the chrome.


This file is for token values specific to the brand, such as colors and typographical styles. This stylesheet should be loaded in domains that rely on brand values.

For example, we re-map the accent color token in tokens-brand.css to the value we want to use in brand contexts (in-content/about: pages):

/* tokens-brand.css */
--color-accent-primary: light-dark(var(--color-blue-50), var(--color-cyan-50));


This file is for token values used the browser chrome that come from the user’s operating system, such as colors and fonts.

For example, we re-map the accent color token in tokens-platform.css to the value we want to use in platform contexts (chrome):

/* tokens-platform.css */
--color-accent-primary: var(--button-primary-bgcolor, AccentColor);


This file is for tokens that are shared between brand and platform contexts.

For example, both the chrome and in-content pages make use of the same border-radius patterns:

/* tokens-shared.css */
--border-radius-small: 4px;



Base design tokens represent the most basic, or foundational, groups of design tokens that point to the actual hard-coded values of the design system. They can be referenced to create more meaningful tokens.

/* tokens-shared.css */
--color-blue-50: #0060df;
--color-blue-60: #0250bb;
--color-blue-70: #054096;


Application design tokens represent the more semantic groups of design tokens that give meaning to base values based on their purpose or how/where they are applied.

/* tokens-brand.css */
--color-accent-primary: light-dark(var(--color-blue-50), var(--color-cyan-50));


Component design tokens represent design tokens scoped to a specific component or element. While the “Application” tier can handle most if not all styling use cases, tier 3 helps encapsulate style decisions at the component level.

Although some component-specific tokens for basic HTML elements (e.g. button) live in tokens-shared.css today, component-specific tokens should live at the component-level file (e.g. moz-toggle.css) so that they can’t be used outside of that specific component’s domain.

/* moz-toggle.css */
--toggle-background-color-pressed: var(--color-accent-primary);

File structure

Design token files are structured for organization and consumption purposes.

Token groups should be listed by alphabetical order: Border, Color, Font Weight…

A comment heading should be added above each token group with its name:

/** Color **/
--color-white: #ffffff;
--color-blue-05: #deeafc;
--color-blue-30: #73a7f3;

Design tokens should be listed by alphabetical order:

/** Focus outline **/
--focus-outline: var(--focus-outline-width) solid var(--focus-outline-color);
--focus-outline-color: var(--color-accent-primary);
--focus-outline-inset: calc(-1 * var(--focus-outline-width));
--focus-outline-offset: 2px;
--focus-outline-width: 2px;

Scale groups should be listed from the beginning to the end of the scale (i.e. smallest to largest value). Any semantic tokens within a scale, such as the --font-size-root example below, can be listed above it:

/** Font size **/
--font-size-root: 15px;
--font-size-small: 0.867rem;  /* 13px */
--font-size-large: 1.133rem;  /* 17px */
--font-size-xlarge: 1.467rem; /* 22px */
--font-size-xxlarge: 2.2rem;  /* 33px */


For certain components, their high-contrast mode design will need styles that other modes do not (e.g. HCM relies on borders that do not exist in non-HCM). In those instances, we just add tokens under the high contrast mode media query rules. On the other hand, if something such as a color, does not apply to HCM contexts, then we add those design tokens under a “@media not (prefers-contrast)” query.

Light and dark

We rely on the light-dark() CSS function to set light and dark mode colors at the token assignment level.

/* tokens-shared.css */
--icon-color: light-dark(var(--color-gray-70), var(--color-gray-05));

High contrast mode

We rely on two queries for assigning HCM counterpart variables, @media (prefers-contrast) and @media (forced-colors). They are found at the bottom of tokens-shared.css.

/* This part of the documentation will link to Bug 1863436 once it lands */

Help and support

If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback, and if this document has not answered something specific, please reach out to Desktop Theme Reviewers or Reusable Components Reviewers.

The Reusable Components team can be found on Matrix at #reusable-components, and theme reviewers can be found at #fx-theme-reviewers. You’re also welcome to request info from any of us on Bugzilla.

Tag us on your Phabricator patch via #desktop-theme-reviewers and #reusable-components-reviewers.

Internal only: we are also on Mozilla’s internal Slack at #acorn-design-tokens. This channel is dedicated to our design token working group. We also host weekly open-discussion sessions on Zoom; please reach out if you’d like an invite to the meeting.


For proposing contributions to design token files, please file a bug under the Theme component.

If any feature work may require a change or addition to token files, filing a follow-up bug is recommended.

Token file changes or additions should be handled with their own bug and patch. Please add a detailed commit message following this changelog format:

* ...

* ...

* ...

* ...

* ...

Teams that generate component and feature specific tokens are welcome to reach out to theme and reusable components reviewers for support.