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it would be good to share some error message from backend log. But in general API keys are used to interact with DSS using the REST interface. What you are probably trying to do is to deploy a project from Design to Automation. In the background the Design node packages the project into a zip file and tries to POST it to a REST endpoint of Automation node. To authenticate, it needs API key.
Also automation node is something different than API node. You mentioned that your ran apinode-admin command, but that is to manage and adminsiter the DSS API node. The role of the API node is to host and run API endpoints. The concept is the same, when the endpoint is deployed, it is packages and posted to some URL. And authentication is needed again.
Go to Settings -> DSS Settings -> Global API Keys -> NEW API KEY. This will generate a new key, just name it whatever you like.
Or go to your data directory and run
bin/dsscli api-key-create --no-header --admin true --label admin_key