Large software systems are often built on system platforms that support or enforce specific characteristics of the source code or actual design. These characteristics are either captured informally in design guideline documents or in specialized design and implementation languages.
In our view, both approaches are unsatisfactory. Informal descriptions do not allow automated analysis and lead to vague constraint descriptions. The language-based approach leads to different languages for different platforms and even for different versions of the same basic platform.
Our approach is to describe and name the constraints separately in a design constraint language called CDL, which is based on an extraordinarily concise logic of parse trees. Designs are then annotated with the names of the constraints they are supposed to satisfy.
We discuss how the design constraint language is integrated into a design language environment. We exhibit industrial and experimental evidence that our choice of design constraint language allows us to formalize naturally and succinctly common design characteristics.