What is Open Source Design?
When we hear “open source”, most of us think code, “source” referring to source code. So what does open source design mean? We can point to plenty of examples of open design that exist in the wild. Most of these exist as design systems, like Google’s Material design, the Salesforce Lightning Design system, and the IBM Design Language. So when I say “open source design,” how is this any different?
Design is an often misunderstood practice. It’s not hard to find people who still think of design as window dressing, as a finishing touch that makes everything look pretty. Others may have a slightly more evolved understanding and recognize terms like “usability” and “user-centered design,” but what these phrases actually mean to people varies quite a bit, person to person. I’m not interested in sorting out that particular debate here. I’m going to assume readers have pretty solid grasp of these concepts. What I want to focus on is how these can be open source. What makes open source design "open source"?
Designers ask “why?”
At the end of the day, a designer’s job is to ask "why?" Knowing the right "whys" to ask is the real task. This is where research comes in and why it is such a crucial part of design. So, to get back to my earlier question, the source in open source design amounts to research and connecting research findings to designed solutions.
Open research has a long, rich history in science and in academia. Extending this to design has always felt like a natural step, but how does this play out in the real world?
A small group of designers at the Spark Technology Center set out to figure this out by engaging the Apache SystemML™ community. The goal of this partnership was to make SystemML more accessible and user friendly, through user-centered, open source design.
True to the Apache way, we wanted our design process to open to the community and public — from research, to concept sketching, user journey maps, wireframes, and branding.
In the coming weeks, we’ll share our challenges and successes. We’ll explore open research, collaboration and community, UX roadmaps, style guides, and how to design a sustainable ecosystem around open source projects.
This is a living experiment and we hope to generate discussion and participation from designers everywhere. Join in and share your thoughts on Twitter at @o_s_design, @opensrcdesign and @apachespark_tc.
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