What is Cardinal?

Cardinal is a modular, “mobile-first” CSS framework built with performance and scalability in mind.

The purpose of this framework is to make it easier for front-end web developers to prototype, build, scale, and maintain CSS for responsive websites, user interfaces, and applications. Cardinal omits many aesthetic design decisions that often bog down other CSS frameworks (which are often UI toolkits, not frameworks), leaving the design and creativity up to you.


  • “Mobile-first” CSS written for the LESS preprocessor.
  • normalize.css
  • Sensible global styles, variables, and useful mixins.
  • A flexible grid system and encapsulated styles for common UI objects (buttons, forms, tables, etc.)
  • A collection of utility classes optimized for great gzip compression.
  • The entire framework, minified and gzipped, clocks in at a mere 11.27kB.

Getting Started

The fastest way to get up-and-running with Cardinal is by using a package manager, like so:


To install Cardinal with Bower, run the following command(s) from your terminal:

cd your-project-directory
bower install --save cardinal


To install Cardinal with npm, run the following command(s) from your terminal:

cd your-project-directory
npm install --save cardinalcss

Direct Download

If you do not want to use a package manager to integrate Cardinal into your project, you can also download it directly:

Build from Source

To do so, you need to already have Node.js and npm installed on your machine. Cardinal uses Gulp to build and watch the CSS files.

git clone git@github.com:cbracco/cardinal.git
cd cardinal
npm install

Download the Zip

You can also download the .zip file and proceed however you wish. Include the minified CSS file in the <head> of your project, or modify the LESS files directly (not recommended, since it will be difficult to update to future versions). It’s your world!

Download the zip


Including Partials

The easiest way to include Cardinal in your project is to include the entire thing before your project files, like so:

// Vendor

@import url("../../path/to/bower_components/cardinal/cardinal.less");

// Project

@import url("project-file.less");

However, you don’t have to use the entire Cardinal framework. The only required partials are located in the base/ directory:

// Vendor

// Base
// These variables, mixins, and styles are required if you want to use this
// framework, and they should be included in the following order.

// Base -> Variables

@import url("base/variables.less");

// Base -> Mixins

@import url("base/mixins/to-rem.less");
@import url("base/mixins/media-queries.less");
@import url("base/mixins/antialiasing.less");
@import url("base/mixins/clearing.less");
@import url("base/mixins/font-face.less");
@import url("base/mixins/momentum-scrolling.less");
@import url("base/mixins/text-truncate.less");
@import url("base/mixins/vertically-centered.less");

// Base -> Normalize

@import url("base/normalize.less");

// Base -> Reset

@import url("base/reset.less");


//@import url("base/debug.less");

// Base -> Default Styles

@import url("base/root.less");
@import url("base/anchors.less");
@import url("base/text-elements.less");
@import url("base/headings.less");
@import url("base/lists.less");
@import url("base/horizontal-rules.less");
@import url("base/blockquotes.less");
@import url("base/code.less");
@import url("base/embedded-content.less");
@import url("base/form-elements.less");
@import url("base/tables.less");
@import url("base/print.less");

Beyond that, you can use whatever grid system, components, and utilities you would like. The base/ directory just sets some good base styles for the framework.

Modifying Variables

After getting started and including Cardinal, you will probably want to begin customizing it to suit your project. Cardinal has a bunch of LESS variables located in the base/variables.less file that can be tweaked to your needs. >These variables should not be edited directly. The recommended way to make changes to Cardinal LESS variables is to create your own project-specific variables file (e.g. project-variables.less), and override the default variables in this file, like so:

// project-variables.less

// Typography -> Font Sizes -> Base

$font-size: 17;

// Typography -> Line height

$line-height: 26;

This file should be included in your main LESS file after you’ve included Cardinal.

Further Documentation

There is a README.md file included in each major directory of this project that further details the code located in those directories.

Browser support

Cardinal supports most modern browsers:

  • Google Chrome 25+
  • Mozilla Firefox 19+
  • Safari 6.0+
  • iOS Safari 4.0+
  • Opera 12.1+
  • Android 4.2+
  • Internet Explorer 9+


Cardinal is licensed under the MIT Open Source license. For more information, see the LICENSE.md file in this repository.


Cardinal is a project by @cbracco. Its principles and techniques are very influenced by the following projects, organizations, and individuals: