Open design is an alternative design and development method based on the free exchange of information.
By balancing the independence of individual designers and the collective power of collaboration, open design enables and promotes the convictions and passions of designers working towards the benefit of society.
Open design can manifest in many different ways. You might:
- help design the interface of your favorite open-source project
- collaborate with people and projects in areas related to specific topics of interest
- create a design resource library like an icon set or a UI kit
- help test an open-source product and provide feedback
- contribute to the Bitcoin Design Guide
Whatever you choose to do, open design projects are voluntary public contributions. From this work, a network of people and projects emerge connected by personal relationships, specialized communities, and sharing of work. This is different from corporate structures and requires individuals to think and act more independently.
In open-source software, public review and debate lead to better products and services. Open-source development has existed for decades, while open design is not widely known or practiced. Designing for bitcoin products, especially for newcomers in an open design setting, can be disorienting and require adjustments to how they work and collaborate. No longer is work the exclusive product of them or a small, localized team; instead, it becomes part of a public conversation.
Designers, developers, translators, project managers, and others work together in the open. Multidisciplinary collaboration, openness, and diversity of people involved make sure that the best solution wins no matter where it comes from.
Open design and Bitcoin #
The spirit of openness is deeply embedded into Bitcoin; the source code is public, participation in the network is public and unrestricted, and transferring value via the Bitcoin protocol is permissionless. Thousands of projects have borrowed ideas, techniques, and code from Bitcoin to create their open-source experiments. For designers who aim to work collaboratively, it’s a robust foundation.
We could even argue that Bitcoin needs open design to stay true to its mission, principles, and philosophy. Most users don’t interact directly with technical protocols but with the applications built on top of it. If those applications are centrally controlled or manipulated, it won’t matter if the protocol is open. So it is up to the community to ensure that Bitcoin remains decentralized and allows for permissionless participation at the open-source application layer.
In open design, we:
- collaborate without competing
- share our process and work in a transparent way
- make it easy for others to build on our work and ideas
- aim for inclusivity
- approach problems with an open-mind
- embrace multidisciplinary feedback
- rely on our peers for quality assurance and validation
- fulfill the open design group’s goals through action
- moral and responsible choices
- products that solve real problems and address real needs
- usability and accessibility for the broadest possible range of people, locations, and backgrounds
- highly functional aesthetic elements that influence both how people feel and think
Getting started #
If you are new to open design for Bitcoin, which many are, it can be tricky to find a place to start. Not only is the tech complex, but there are few educational resources available. The contribute page is a good starting point. These tips can also help you find your footing:
- Join the Bitcoin Design Community on Slack and see what others are discussing. A good way to get started is by asking questions and joining conversations that interest you. Our Community Calls and Design Review calls are also great ways to get active.
- Download a Bitcoin wallet and experiment with small amounts of bitcoin. You can also use Testnet, which allows you to use all the features of the real Bitcoin network, but with worthless test bitcoin.
- Redesign a bitcoin application that interests you. Even as a brief exercise, a redesign is a great way to develop a deeper understanding of how something works and why specific decisions were made.
- Read, watch and listen. There is a lot of great material out there to learn more about Bitcoin. Unfortunately, design-focused content is not as common, but expanding into related materials (like finance) might help.
- Review your tools and workflows and consider how you can make them more public and accessible to others.
Open-source licenses ensure freedom of access to information and resources. They also protect creators from legal liability regarding attribution, publicity, and trademark rights. Their goal is to encourage openness, including the right to use, modify, and redistribute work even for commercial purposes. The open-source movement is responsible for a variety of licenses.
This guide is published under three different licenses (MIT license, Apache License 2.0, and Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License). Anyone who wants to remix it, or parts of it, may choose which one to publish their work under. You can read the full license text here.
- Open-design movement on Wikipedia
- Open Source Design community
- Articles on open design by Ushahidi
- Open Source Guide by Github
Still not sure where to start? Check out the next section about design principles.