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What’s coming to Carbon in 2021

We’re excited to announce that the next major release of Carbon is scheduled for 2021. 🎉

Our last major update was back in March 2019, and we’ve spent the last couple of years helping teams migrate to the updated IBM Design Language through this release.

In 2021, we’re focusing on shipping changes to improve your experience using Carbon. Our major release in Q2 2021 will include a number of quality of life updates, from token naming tweaks to component updates, along with a focus on documentation to make it even easier to use and extend Carbon.

For those coming from the migration of Carbon v9 to v10, rest assured that any release in 2021 will not require you to redesign your product because of an update to the IBM Design Language. Instead, it will streamline how you use Carbon today and seamlessly integrate with how you build your next big feature.

What will change in Q2 2021

The Carbon Design System has been built up by a community of contributors over the past five years. As a result, some inconsistencies are starting to make the experience of using Carbon frustrating. We’re going to use the next major release to address the majority of these inconsistencies, focusing on the most problematic issues we’ve heard through feedback from you.

In particular, you can expect updates to our design tokens to clarify usage and intent alongside updates to our component APIs to create a more consistent and predictable developer experience. We also hope to streamline our development packages to make them easier to use, along with improving the performance of build times for projects that use them.

The biggest change will be the browser coverage that we’re targeting for Carbon. When we release in Q2 2021, Carbon will stop supporting Internet Explorer 11. This move will allow us to offer some of the more exciting ideas from the IBM Design Language update, including support for inline theming with CSS Custom Properties and better support for CSS Grid.

Note: If you or your team are severely impacted by this decision, please reach out to us over email (carbon@us.ibm.com), on Discord if you’re a community member, or on Slack if you’re an IBM employee.

How this impacts you today

For teams that are currently building with Carbon these updates won’t impact you or the work that you’re doing. When the next major release is shipped, you’ll be able to decide when and how to update. We’ll also provide migration guidance and tools to help you update.

What’s coming next

Our plan is to ship early versions of the Q2 2021 release to a group of teams who are interested in learning more and helping us validate this release and the migration experience. We want to make sure this experience is right before we release it to all of IBM.

If you or your team is curious about what’s coming up and wants to get involved, we would love to hear from you! You can find us on Slack if you’re an IBMer, email us at carbon@us.ibm.com, or join our Discord.

Josh Black is a Software Engineer based out of Austin, TX working on the Carbon Design System. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Check out our projects on GitHub. If you’re interested in helping out, we’re always looking for contributors.

Questions or comments about Carbon? Reach out at carbon@us.ibm.com or tweet us @_carbondesign.




Carbon is the design system for IBM software products. It is a series of individual styles, components, and guidelines used for creating unified UI.

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Josh Black

Josh Black

Building design systems for IBM. Thoughts are my own.

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