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Opening up your design process

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In a closed design culture, everyone works in their own little silo. As a designer, it can be frustrating for you—and equally terrible for your company. Although many designers still work in a bubble, a new, more collaborative design process is on the rise.

Last week, we hosted a webinar with Peter Zimon, lead product designer at the idea-sharing platform, Prezi, about how to encourage designers to collaborate, create community, and ultimately make design a social activity. If you have time to dive in, you can watch the full recording directly below.

Otherwise, read on for a quick recap.

The problem with a closed design culture

Closed design cultures suffer from a lack of communication. So, instead of explaining to coworkers what designers do, let’s show them what we do. And the best way to show them is to include them in the process. Share your in-progress designs, ask for their feedback, and encourage them to share their ideas—even when you’re working on elements “outside their area of expertise.” They can help you develop fresh perspectives and you can help them feel more engaged and valued.

3 main consequences of a closed design culture

  1. A lack of understanding what designers do
  2. Unclear goals and solutions
  3. Low input that makes design much more difficult

Because of the key role they play in bringing your designs to life, you’ll want to build solid relationships with your developers. Don’t just hand them design specifications and tell them to get on it—developers aren’t coding machines. Treat them like they are and they’ll lose all sense of ownership and investment. And they’ll be unaware of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Benefits of an open design culture

An open design culture can bring all kinds of benefits to your team and your products, but here are 3 of the most valuable rewards.

More, and more diverse, ideas
Open up your brainstorming sessions to gather everyone’s ideas. This will give you a diversity of solutions to implement, combine, or build off.

The strength of this approach is that everyone starts from different constraints. When discussing ideas, developers start from edge cases. Designers start from the concept, the vision, and the holistic view. Recognizing the edge cases at the beginning of the process will enable you to design a better experience.

Expanded perspective
Once, Peter designed a solution without any outside input, and he thought his idea was perfect. After putting in numerous hours of work, he shared his design with his manager—who immediately saw things from a different angle. Peter realized he’d wasted hours solving the wrong problem.

Less need to convince and persuade
With an open design process, there’s less need to convince stakeholders, because they’ve been involved and aware of your decisions from the get-go. When everyone knows the problem and agrees on the solution, development and approval come much more quickly.

Play together

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 4.57.15 PM

In a band, the drummer facilitates his fellow musicians’ work by creating rhythm. In your company, the designer should play a similar role, facilitating the development of the right solution through an open, collaborative design process. Just as a rhythm alone isn’t a song, a design isn’t complete without the others we work with.

Interest piqued? Learn more about how Prezi’s design culture works.


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Author

Margaret Kelsey
Content + community at InVision. Newly Bostonian.

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