Designing in the open

Designing in the open is about collaboration and sharing your work publicly as you undertake a design project. Its about fighting against designing in a vacuum and about being fearless in showing unfinished or rough work. Because ultimately, design is best when it involves other people.

This can mean sharing sketches, prototypes, frameworks, stories or all manner of other artefacts. For my current employer designing in the open means all of these things but is inwardly facing, focusing on providing insight into the design process to areas of the business outside of the design team.

Opening up design work to be examined by a wider audience results in better products. For us designing in the open has encouraged better communication, stopped the project going too far in the wrong direction, and increased stakeholder buy-in by involving them in the decision making process. It has allowed projects the benefit of a multidisciplinary approach by drawing on different life experiences and fresh perspectives. This has allowed us to iron out more of the wonky parts earlier on in the process and reduced their cost to the business.

Designing in the open has increased the velocity of our team by reducing the amount of documentation required before other departments are able to pick up our output, it has resulted in projects that deliver value to our customers sooner. The more non-designers have been involved in design projects the become more they have become design aware and able to provide another voice to help the business recognise the value of investment in design and to encourage the direction of resources.

If your organisation has a culture of collaboration and sharing then designing in the open is probably the obvious choice, but for us opening up our design process was revolutionary. The organisation we are in is very developer centric and technology driven; the managing director used to be a developer, the product managers used to be developers, and the design team is outnumbered by developers to a factor of 30:1. This means a lot gets into the products without any design influence. Couple this with a culture in which historically if a developer didn’t buy into the high level design decisions they wouldn’t observe them and you have a usability nightmare. Designing in the open has helped give us a bigger voice to call out against the product inconsistencies that this culture creates.

For us a culture shift is most definitely required and designing in the open is our first step down that road.

Wayne Moir

User Experience Designer