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Design Handoff to Development

Designers and developers should refer to system elements by the same names. This guide shows you how to call out MDS vs. custom components within visual designs.


Annotations can be generated quickly using the Sketch Measure plugin below.


  • Whenever possible, specify typography by referencing the text style mixins on the Typography page. Mixins apply many different styles to text, including color, font weight, font size, and line height.
Mixin details highlighted on the Typography page. Mixin name on the Typography page.
  • Override text styles (both body text and headings) as bolded by adding the text weight constant to your annotation, i.e., Mixin: level-3-heading, $mds-text-weight-bold.
Example of a spec calling for a font weight override on a typography mixin. Apply bolding to any typography mixin.
  • To meet accessibility color contrast requirements, use only MDS text colors and their constants, i.e., $mds-text-color-error-on-light.

UI Components

  • Always specify UI Components by name and, when applicable, size and variation, i.e., MDS Button Medium Primary, MDS List Group Small.
Example of a spec calling out a small button group component. Annotating components.
  • Optionally, consider including links to relevant component documentation pages. Links within PDFs are automatically clickable.
Example of a spec including a link to MDS documentation. Include a link in your annotations for quick access to component pages.


  • Always specify colors using Color constants.
  • Avoid annotating colors using base color constants such as $mds-color-neutral-##.
Example of color specs using MDS constants. Annotating colors using mds_constants.
Example of a spec using appropriate semantic constants to set background and text colors.
Do use semantically appropriate constants whenever possible.
Example of a spec using incorrect generic constants when semantic constants should be used.
Don‘t specify background colors or text using the generic MDS constants.
  • Specify UI Components and Typography mixins by the same name on all backgrounds.
Example of spec using the same name for components on different background colors. Typography mixins and components are built for both light and dark backgrounds.


  • Always specify icons using their name on the Iconography page, i.e., bookmark-fill, alert-fill--s.
  • Static icons can be specified by using icon name only.
Showing where icon names can be found on the iconography page. Icon name on the Icongraphy page.
Spec showing proper use if icon only buttons. Use an Icon-Only Button group to create a toolbar of icons.


  • Use the constants on the Space page to annotate space between elements.
  • The most common spaces used will be stack, for adding space to the bottom of an element, and inline, for adding space to the left or right of an element.
    • Use inline-left spacing to separate inline elements flowing together from the left edge. This applies right margin to each item. The opposite is true for inline-right.
  • Currently the MDS spatial model is tailored to the space within components, so the increments are small and not always sufficient for composing a page layout. When spacing out elements more than 16px, specify the space in increments of 8px, i.e., 24, 32, 40, etc.
Example of a spec showing callouts for a combination of MDS space constants and custom spaces. A combination of MDS Space constants and custom space.


Example of a spec showing use of a border constant. Annotating a Border separator.

Custom Designs

  • Always attempt to use the methods above to specify as much of the design as possible.
  • If your design extends beyond what MDS offers, use the base Constants to specify as many details as possible.
  • Label custom design details in annotations, and consider using a different color to signal custom work, as this may help developers better size styling efforts.

Additional Resources

Sketch Measure Plugin

The Sketch Measure plugin automatically generates the yellow-background annotations in the above examples. By labelling layers with design details, this feature allows you to quickly generate annotated specifications.

1. Download and install the Sketch Measure plugin.

2. Open the Sketch Measure Toolbar 2.0

Screenshot displaying Sketch Measure menu.

3. Select the object to annotate, and choose the positioning of the annotation.

Screenshot showing how to choose caption direction.

4. Choose only “Layer name” and click the blue checkmark button to create the annotation.

Screenshot showing selection of only layer name and done button.

InVision Inspect

Using the InVision Inspect tool allows an engineer to view all of the details of an uploaded .sketch file. Identify MDS components and constants by naming the layers in your Sketch file with MDS component and constant names.

Screenshot of Sketch layer names used to show spec details. Annotations as layer names in Sketch.
Screenshot of InVision inspect showing layers named with spec details. Annotations as layer names in InVision Inspect.
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