Culture and Design

Transparent
Design

How design should drop its barriers and open
up to everyone.



The design process was always one of collaboration. Naturally, designers work together to uncover problems and inspire solutions. This doesn't seem to be the case when we work with other disciplines. And it's especially true in bigger corporations, where design is only now starting to be at the decision table. Designers only work with other designers.


It doesn't have to be this way - It shouldn't be. Design doesn't work in vacuum.

Design is a collaborative effort.

Everyone, from the developer to the product manager and the engineer, is part of the design process. We all create the product, and our decisions mould and affect it.


Even though a product is made up of many different parts, the process of its creation is often of a fragmented nature. Teams create in separate environments. Design should be glue that brings these different streams together into one focused current, managing the good frictions between them. By working collaboratively, not only will the product be better, but the journey to arrive there will be easier.


Transparent Design Diagram

"The problem is that people think design can mean confusion and that's where design goes the wrong way... It goes too far inside the field, so others outside the field cannot see it for what it can bring."1

From design deliverable to process.

Because we create things, as designers we sometimes suffer from paralysing fear. We can be afraid to show things that are unfinished or unpolished - we create distractions. Somehow we feel safe behind a cool animation.


"The beauty of the images is never an end. It is only the reward of a fidelity to the truth that one wants to express and the means at our disposal to do so."2


By sharing the truth of our process with others, we make our ideas, problems and solutions open to feedback. We're also making it much easier for others to understand our intents, and that nothing we create as designers was at random. All of our solutions exist for a reason.

Design is messy.

By unnecessarily cleansing our work to create something we think is worth sharing, we often lose valuable insight. This insight might help other people reframe the challenge and uncover new opportunities for the final solution. And while everyone loves beauty, we as designers should also start to embrace the ugly.


There is nothing wrong with a dense research text file or an Excel Blueprint. They are the result of our thinking considerations, and they open up design to everyone.



  1. John Maeda on Design Thinking and Creative Leadership. Perf. John Maeda. John Maeda on Design Thinking and Creative Leadership. Design Indaba, 13 June 2016. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjSOjwixR4k. ↩︎

  2. Ranciere, Jacques, and Erik Beranek. "The Time After." Bela Tarr, the Time After. N.p.: U of Minnesota, 2013. N. pag. Print. ↩︎



Illustration by Ana Mafalda Henriques.