A Method For Structuring Stylesheets in React-based Applications
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Clone or download
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.
Failed to load latest commit information.


A System For Structuring Stylesheets In React Applications

Read the introduction.

If you've ever wondered where to put styles, how to choose their selectors, or why one component's styles have somehow affected another's - Pacomo is for you.

By designing your app around the Pacomo method, you'll increase your productivity on multiple fronts:

  • Spend less time choosing where to put things, and more time making them amazing
  • Take advantage of tools built to ease development with Pacomo
  • Ease interaction between teams following the same method

Pacomo accomplishes this by following three principles:

  • Convention Over Configuration
  • Separation Of Concerns
  • Don't Repeat Yourself

Pacomo was extracted from memamug.com, a small open-source app by James K Nelson.


The Pacomo specification is currently at version 0.1, and should be considered unstable.



  1. Naming conventions
  2. Dependencies
  3. Project structure
  4. JavaScript guidelines
  5. Stylesheet guidelines

1. Naming Conventions

Package Component Modifier

The core of PaCoMo is a simple process for deciding class names:

  • Class names must start with your Package name

  • The package name must be followed by the name of the Component in which they're defined

  • The root element of each component must have a class with only the two parts defined above

  • All other classes must end with a Modifier which describes the effect they have.

Example: Component root element class

Here is an example of the class used on the root <div> from the memamug package's Paper component:

Example: Modifiers

This example is for a class which adds rounded corners to the above Paper component:


Choosing names

Your package name should follow the name in your package.json.

Your component name must be identical to your component's JavaScript class name. This allows us to refer to it programatically using JSX's displayName, or this.constructor.name with ES6 classes.

2. Dependencies

Normalize browser differences

To improve consistency between browsers, Pacomo-based applications (and applications which include Pacomo-based components) must include normalize.css.

Avoid dependencies with global styles

Pacomo-based components must not include any global styles outside of those following the PaCoMo naming convention.

By extension, they must not depend on any external stylesheets which include global styles; Bootstrap and Foundation are examples.

Build system

Following the Don't Repeat Yourself principle, Pacomo apps must use a CSS pre-processor which supports the parent selector, using & notation; Less and Sass are good examples.

In addition, your project must use a compiler which allows you to include stylesheets directly from your component JavaScript files; Webpack is one example.

3. Project Structure


Each React component must have a single stylesheet file, placed in the same directory as it's single JavaScript file.

The stylesheet should be required by the JavaScript file using require(), or similar.


In addition to component stylesheets, your project may have an overarching theme stylesheet. When compiled, this theme stylesheet must not produce any output, but instead be composed entirely of variables, mixins, etc.

If present, your theme stylesheet may be maintained as a separate package to your main application.


Any styles on raw HTML (i.e. that not managed by React components) must be managed by the application, independent of any component styles.

4. JavaScript Guidelines

Class name order

The top-level node returned by each component's render should include a className attribute with the following order:

  1. root class
  2. modifier classes
  3. classes passed through className prop

This ensures that classes passed as properties will be given priority over the component's default styles.


Here is an example of the JSX used to define a top-level node in the Paper component found in the memamug package:

<div className={`memamug-Paper memamug-Paper-rounded ${this.props.className}` />

Don't repeat package and component strings

Following the Don't Repeat Yourself principle, package and component names should be written out as few times as possible. In practice, this means:

  • Package name should be specified once, and added programatically thereafter
  • Component name should be automatically prepended based on JSX's displayName property, or an ES6 class's name property.

5. Stylesheet Guidelines

Reference themes where possible

If your compile-to-CSS language supports it, you should use @import (reference) '...'; where possible to ensure no global styles are imported.

One top-level selector

Following the Separation Of Concerns principle, each component stylesheet must have exactly one top-level selector. This selector must be named after the root class.


For the Paper class in the memamug package, the component class would follow this pattern:

.memamug-Paper {
	/* ... */

Use Parent Selectors (&)

In order to make stylesheets simpler to reason about, all parts of all non-top-level selectors must start with a parent selector and a dash (&-); this selector is available in compile-to-CSS languages such as Sass and Less, and works as follows:


.memamug-Paper {
	box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.24);

	&-rounded {
		border-radius: 3px;


.memamug-Paper {
	box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.24);

.memamug-Paper-rounded {
	border-radius: 3px;

This rule has a number of flow-on effects:

  • You cannot select elements based on tag names or ids. Instead, select child elements through the use of a modifier class.
  • You cannot apply styles to child components by referencing their element/root class names. Instead, pass in modifier classes to their className attribute, and add styles using these modifiers.


These tools are not required by the specification, but may make implementation easier. If you have tools you'd like to add, feel free to make a pull request.

  • react-pacomo - Automatically add the correct namespaces by transforming your className props


The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

Pull requests welcome, but make them good.


This document has been placed in the Public Domain.