Before going deep into how to use a Design API, we want to help you understand why they exist in the first place. This chapter introduces you to our vision and the many reasons behind the rise of Design APIs.
Specify's mission is to empower organizations to manage their branding at scale.
An organization's branding is used by many people, in many teams in different environments. Sometimes, organizations are even working collaboratively with external companies. Yes, we're thinking of you, agencies.
In short, whether you're a designer, a developer, a product manager, or working in a marketing team, you've probably already worked with an organization's branding.
Branding is used daily by people through tools like Figma, GitHub or Notion. Thus, an organization's branding must be as easy to access and use as possible. Fortunately, today's tools are smart enough to communicate with each other. That's were APIs come to play.
Those relationships between people and their tools are the backbone of a design system:
A brand is composed of what we call "design data". Under this scary name, you'll find all the design decisions helping an organization differentiate from others when communicating. Design decisions can be colors, typefaces, icons, images, or even sounds. Every time you see, hear, or even use something from an organization, you're actually interacting with its branding.
A design decision can be as subtle as a color and as complex as a logo.
Those design decisions are precious. You must take care of them, and everyone has to use them the same way. Otherwise, the organization's message will seem out of tune. It would lead to a lack of trust and impact business.
At Specify, we want to help organizations manage their brand at scale. We want to help you distribute your branding everywhere you want, how you want, and when you want. In short, we want to give you the flexibility you deserve to manage your branding exactly how you want.
Marketing, product, and engineering teams manage analytics data by connecting all analytics tools to a single source of truth. We want you to do exactly the same with design data — and by design data, we mean design tokens and assets.
Specify is the first Design Data Platform to help you unify your brand identity by collecting, storing and distributing design tokens and assets — automatically.
DesignOps & Design APIs
Learn what DesignOps is and how it can help your team have an impact at scale associated with a Design API.
What is DesignOps?
Software is eating the world. Consequently, many organizations have been growing their design teams to follow the pace of the digital transformation. Design teams now have the same organizational issues engineering teams faced many years ago.
Design Operations, also called "DesignOps," answer those organizational issues.
DesignOps refers to the orchestration and optimization of people, processes, and craft in order to amplify design's value and impact at scale
Nielsen Norman Group
DesignOps aims to optimize and expand existing tools and methods to allow designers to focus on creativity and innovation.
DesignOps and Design APIs: a perfect match
Product teams and designers face a common issue: being aligned while working with brand identity on a digital product.
Setting up a design system is the best solution for brand consistency at scale. However, a design system is 80% about people and 20% about tooling. Design systems help everyone involved in creating and maintaining a digital product work better together.
Your design system is as valuable as the trust its consumers place in it.
Bringing people together is hard. However, a first start can be to help the tools we use daily communicate better with other ones. It means that your organization must keep its design system in sync. The best way to keep the information up to date is to allow data to navigate freely between the tools within your design system. And the best way to distribute data from one place to another is by using an API.
A Design API is part of the 20% tooling mentioned above, and it's what makes your design system fully connected. It helps you remain autonomous and efficient — so you can improvise.
As design systems evolve into fully-featured Design APIs, the future of design is bright.
Matthew Ström, Design APIs: the evolution of design systems
A Design API doesn't solve all your team's organizational issues you may face. However, it's currently the best method to help you reach brand consistency at scale. Which is already huge.
A Design API helps your organization's branding be in sync by:
- Collecting design data from sources (e.g., Figma)
- Storing this design data in an external source of truth to secure this branding (e.g., Specify)
- Distributing the design data to all the teams, people, and tools using them (e.g., to engineers in a GitHub repository)
Design System + Design API = Design System always up-to-date
In short, product teams have been growing for many years to follow the pace of digital transformation. As a result, design systems arised to help everyone work better together on digital products. However, the value of a design system is as valuable as the trust its consumers place in it. An outdated design system instantly becomes useless. And this is where Design APIs come into play. Design APIs automatically synchronize design data within your design system. They are the "automation" layer that helps your design system become fully connected. The future looks bright.