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What is an open design process?//

What is an open design process? featured image

Mozilla are pioneers of open source software and web standards, and are well known for their browser, Firefox. At the end of 2016, they revealed their new logo design following their company rebrand. They had created their new logo using an ‘open design process’. Mozilla opted for the open design process because it was in-keeping with their brand values.

Most of the time, brand development will be done behind closed doors with a limited number of people working on it. At the end of the process, the work is revealed to a larger party of decision makers to be bought, tweaked or binned based on their feedback.

An open design process, however, is when the design work is shared openly during its development for anyone to view and feedback on. It is mostly commonly used in open-source software and hardware development, giving the users the opportunity to be involved.

Benefits of open design

Community feedback

Online communities are fantastic for sharing resources and advice. If you write a post that shares a problem or asks a question, the community can respond with potential solutions, resources, tips and advice. By involving your community, you may be able to identify obstacles and solve problems earlier on in the development process, avoiding costly mistakes.

Valued users

Collaboration with your community can help to make them feel valued. Their participation makes them proud of the product and can generate buy-in, enthusiasm, and potentially, brand ambassadors.

Generate interest and a larger community

Sharing your designs whilst they’re being developed can help to generate interest and some ‘buzz’. The creators of ‘Indie Game: The Movie’ involved their community by sharing their progress at each step of the filming and editing process. The community grew, and by the time the film got released, they had amassed thousands of people who were ready to purchase the movie.

Establish your credentials

It provides the opportunity to openly demonstrate your skills, processes and general best practice. By doing this you not only establish yourselves as credible and transparent, you also provide useful information and ideas to others within your industry.

Challenges of open design

Sharing work in progress

There is a danger with sharing unfinished work, due to the fact that some people are detail driven and may focus on a functional element not working, or an incorrect colour that’s been used, totally missing the ‘big idea’ you’re trying to convey. However, it provides a platform to explain the rationale behind each decision that you make.

Other companies may steal your ideas

This has to be the biggest challenge. It’s important to remember that imitation will always happen, and that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. However, if you openly discussed the idea first, there’s a public record of that, which is visible and open to the world to see.

Community moderation

One of the greatest things about the open design process is the community, but sadly it is also one of its downfalls. You will (hopefully) get some great feedback and ideas, but you will also get the unhelpful comments and suggestions. Remember Boaty McBoatface? The NERC chief faced the dilemma of choosing between the credibility of his organisation – and its £200m arctic explorer – and the overwhelming burden of public opinion.


In order for an open design process to work, the correct resources must be allocated and processes must be put in place to effectively manage the creation of content, content distribution, the community, and the feedback – both internally and externally.

Are you considering an open design process?

Despite the benefits of an open design process, many would argue that it devalues the art of traditional advertising. In this case, Mozilla is a non-profit, free software community and it made sense for them to crowdsource ideas from their community. However, if you’re a for-profit company with a history, you shouldn’t look to your customers to define your brand. Who knows, you might have to choose the best idea from a bad bunch if you do…