Open Source Design Manifesto


(Elio Qoshi) #1

Hi folks,

At Open Source Design Summit last year in Berlin we talked about drafting a first Open Source Design Manifesto. Unfortunately, not many notes are kept on it:
https://pad.ura.design/p/osd-summit-2017-day1

I think that we should turn our attention back to this as a common Manifesto of OSD as an organization but also philosophy, is core to our mission.

Currently I’m on a work retreat with the Ura team and among others we talked about Open Source Design Summit and how OSD values can be translated into words.

I came up with a draft of a manifesto based on 10 Principles. An introduction is missing and wording is up for discussion, but I’d like to invite you to chime in about the core values and whether you agree with them as an Open Source Designer.

The Open Source Design Manifesto

Principle 1

Design, regardless of its form, is an important part of human connection. Its presence or lack thereof can influence the way communication, collaboration and media is perceived.

Principle 2

Design should educate and invite people to get involved in whatever capacity they desire to.

Principle 3

Design is a means to an end and not the goal itself. Human centric processes are critical to ensure this.

Principle 4

Design roles and processes must only have authority they are justified to have and function for its legitimate purpose. Excess authority and elitism is discouraged.

Principle 5

Design is not an afterthought and works in tandem with other disciplines which make up a greater product, process or workflow. The importance of these disciplines should be treated equally.

Principle 6

The open internet has shaped the way we interact with each other. We share knowledge and teach skills. Information is not kept behind gates and should be freely accessible.

Principle 7

Every work derives from prior information and intellectual work. Copying, transforming and adapting are acceptable forms of creativity. This should reflect accordingly in licensing of works.

Principle 8

Sharing design sources is a necessity for decentralizing design processes and allows others to contribute independently.

Principle 9

Open Source Design is aligned with Free Software and Open Source values. They go hand in hand with participative design processes.

Principle 10

Design should strive to improve the experience of the intended audience in an honest and respectful way without violating trust and promoting accountability.


I think this is a rather historical moment and it’s important to get on the same page :slight_smile:


Monthly call notes – 2018-06-06
(Heiko Tietze) #2

Thanks for driving this. The first couple of principles sounds like how-to design in general. Would be hard to highlight the essential idea for some principles (would suggest to do that). P7 about copyright is great, but could benefit from something like “greatly appreciate credits”.


(Elio Qoshi) #3

The manifesto should talk about values and not specifics. It’s also part of “This should reflect accordingly in licensing of works.” So that should be covered.


(Elio Qoshi) #4

At least @core-group your input would be appreciated :slight_smile:


(Jdittrich) #5
  • I think the points until including 4 are very general, some not even specific for design, so I would be tempted to cut them.
  • in 8. “sharing design sources” is imho not the easiest way to express this. What about “sharing editable files” or “original files” or so?
  • in 9. “They go hand in hand with participative design processes.” – Does that mean that open source and participatory go together? Since they mostly don’t, since participatory and *…own itch" does often not go well together.
  • in 10 “Design should strive to improve the experience of the intended audience in an honest and respectful way without violating trust and promoting accountability.” is easy to misunderstand as “without…promoting accountability”. Better imho: “Design should strive to improve the experience of the intended audience in an honest and respectful way. Design should promote accountability and should not violate trust.”

(Elio Qoshi) #6

I disagree. You and me might be convinced that these apply to design as well, but in many cases it’s not clear that they do and a manifesto should convey values and perspectives, without going into details.

A matter of definition indeed. If the design equivalent of “source code” can be defined, let’s use that.

The manifesto describes what should happen, not what the reality is right now. Unless you disagree that this should be the ideal scenario, I think it would be most suitable like that.

Sure, we can rephrase that.


(Jdittrich) #7

There might be no direct equivalent and it could be problematic to assume that there is, since the metaphor might be overly constraining (focused on text, programming, assuming code/compilation/executable etc.) So: Happy if we find one, but I am very happy to not using any source code equivalent.

Then I’d suggest 9 could get a “should” as well (just like most other principles in the manifesto).

If participatory is the right way… I guess it is a very promising one. But nothing I feel I would manifest-ize. I have rarely seen it applied in a context of open source and many ideas that I connect to open source (scratch own itch, technology competencies) seen not go well with it.


(Eileen Wagner) #8

I think this is a great place to start, @elioqoshi! Thanks for laying the ground work.

I have a couple of thoughts:

  • I agree that the first couple of principles are a little more descriptive than prescriptive; maybe we can crystallise some conclusions—or cut them entirely.
  • In terms of language: I would use a more active and personal voice, since it’s a manifesto. As in, “these are the principles we believe in: …”.
  • I hope that open source and participatory go together ;_; Isn’t the point of this manifesto in part to work against the “own itch” problem?
  • I’m also adding a couple of things that we’re preaching over here at Simply Secure, see if you like them!

So in the spirit of copying and remixing, here are my proposed principles:

Principle 1

We design for humans. We preach and apply human-centred methods wherever we can.

Principle 2

Design should not be an end in itself; it serves a particular purpose. We do not tolerate elitism or excess authority.

Principle 3

We do not blame users for not using our tools. It is the onus of the tool maker to make a tool usable, not the responsible of the user to be educated.

Principle 4

We care about privacy, security, and transparency. Whether for studies or surveys, we take care to respect the privacy and anonymity of the people we work with.

Principle 5

Design is not an afterthought and works in tandem with other disciplines. It is important to keep in mind the bigger process or workflow.

Principle 6

We share knowledge and teach skills. Information is not kept behind closed gates and should be freely accessible.

Principle 7

Every work derives from prior information and intellectual work. Copying, transforming and adapting are acceptable forms of creativity. This should be reflected accordingly in licensing and attribution.

Principle 8

We are aligned with Free Software and Open Source values. They go hand in hand with participative design processes.


(Jdittrich) #9

Thanks for the remix!

Indeed, I do hope this, too, but I feel the word is there, but is often very vague in it’s meaning and not acted upon or taken as “We need to do it by committee”.

We could merge a bit of 1,2,3 and 8 into something like:

“n. It is the task of the tool maker to make a tool usable and useful by working with (potential) users and learning about their motivations, activities and problems.” (This would give a provisional and criticizable definition of “participatory”)

n. We do not blame users for not using our tools or using them the wrong way. Instead we try to learn why they do what they do.


Totally agree to both; I am unsure why they are in one principle.
Suggestion: Make Purpose and not accepting elitism separate points.

I like the point much since it is a very common argument in practice.

Suggestion: Replace “onus” with a

more common word: “duty”, “task”

Anonymity seems to be a tricky thing (I at least remember that I spend some time with a lawyer on talking about it). There seems to be “guaranteed anonymity” that can not be traced back to a natural person and “practical anonymity” that can only be traced back with a large amount of work.

And, what I found to be a delightful idea, people may want to choose their “pseudonymity”, which is as what they might want to be represented instead of User1 (Not sure if that is compatible with “Anonymity”).

I’d be fine to write “essential” instead of “acceptable” (the previous sentence says basically this, by stating:

(Emphasis mine)


Sharing research data and participant privacy
(Elio Qoshi) #10

Thanks for the valuable feedback! I will get back to this later to review. This is very meta right now and I need to get into the right mindset :sweat_smile:


(Jan-Christoph Borchardt) #11

By the way, these are the notes we have from the group discussion at last year’s Open Source Design Summit on our values and possible manifesto (just to take them out of https://pad.ura.design/p/osd-summit-2017-day1):

Manifesto: our Goals, our Values

  • it has a purpose, it’s emotional, it’s inspiring.
  • examples: Agile manifesto
  • it should be concise
  • the ‘education’ aspect mentioned is not in our current about page

Brainstorm of what Open Source Design is:

I believe that…

  • inclusivity is important
    • anyone can make a difference
    • each individual is important
    • anyone can make good contributions
    • it’s hard to get involved in floss for non-technical people
    • support
    • costs for contributions are a blocking factor
  • influence the design process for the positive
    • transparency
  • open source needs good design to be successful
  • good design in FLOSS will make better communities
    • support each other
  • open source is for innovation, not just cloning
  • FLOSS makes for a better community.

I know that…

  • floss tools are hard to use
  • we need open source design
  • non-code contributors are not seen on the same footing as code contributors
    • undervalued
  • the open source community has different principles from the design community at large
    • correct misconceptions
  • open source is not diverse
  • good design is not just the responsibility of the designers
  • open source tools are not on the same level as proprietary tools
  • everyone has good things to share
    • good group of people
    • lots of potential

I want to…

  • make inclusivity a center of a group
    • code and non-code contributors are as important
  • teach and educate people
  • open source should be design driven
    • alocate more resources to design
  • design should be more open
  • more participation
  • grow OSD, make it global, have more local meetups
  • increase contribution
  • tools
    • open source github for design
    • more material
    • well designed products
    • OS agnostic
    • tools should be as good as proprietary tools
  • foster great design in our communites

What is a menifesto? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifesto


(hellekin) #12

Thanks for starting this. I wonder if you considered the Ethical Design Manifesto and what you think about it.

I’m concerned that Free Software and Open Source “values” are conflated. Especially as M$ is now the largest “Open Source” contributor and buys out Github. As I wrote earlier I consider “open-source” as free software minus ethics – which I share with rms. Five years ago it might have been bitgotry*, but now in retrospect it sounds like a premonition.

* OK, that was a typo, but I’m not sure anymore :wink:


(Elio Qoshi) #13

Based on feedback, here is the another iteration from my side. This includes only 9 principles and for the sake of perfection, we should extend it to 10. Please voice your feedback :slight_smile:


Principle 1

We design for humans. We preach and apply human-centred methods whenever possible.

Principle 2

Design should not be an end in itself; it serves a particular purpose.

Principle 3

We do not tolerate elitism or excess authority. We value respectful discourse over skill-sets and contributions.

Principle 4

We do not blame users for not using our tools. It is the duty of the tool maker to make a tool usable, not the responsibility of the user to be educated.

Principle 5

We take care to respect the privacy and anonymity of the people we work with. Our design processes compliment these values.

Principle 6

Design is not an afterthought and works in tandem with other disciplines.

Principle 7

We share knowledge and teach skills. Information is not kept behind closed gates and should be freely accessible in open standard compliant formats.

Principle 8

Every work derives from prior information and intellectual work. Hence, copying, transforming and adapting are acceptable forms of creativity. This should be reflected accordingly in licensing and attribution.

Principle 9

We are aligned with Free Software and Open Source values. They should go hand in hand with participative design processes.


(Elio Qoshi) #14

I personally like the notion of ethical design but don’t support the manifesto itself. as ethics is a very broad concept and the Ethical Manifesto uses a broader language than e.g the Mozilla Manifesto.

What is beautiful, magical, and delightful even? These are my issues with it.

I agree. Open Source Design is broader than Free Software though and I don’t think Ethics in general should be part of what we stand for as that is a whole different discussion (but we should take a stand for privacy, security and inclusiveness). Let’s avoid having this millenia old discussion again :slight_smile:


(Elio Qoshi) #15

(sorry for the triple post)

The Ethical Design badges are a nice idea though. OSD ones would rock as well :slight_smile:


(Jdittrich) #16

Suggestion: Change to …“usable and useful”…

As voiced above, anonymity is not always the best choice (though a good default)
Suggestion: delete …“anonymity”…

Is this generally “work with” or is this “participants in formal and informal user research”? Because now we two work with each other, and our names are right there, so it might be confusing for newcomers to the community what this applies to.

Is this complement or compliment? In either case I am not sure what that means in practice – would this be using only design processes that respect privacy? e.g. no cross page web tracking or so? In which case: Would “tool” or “method” be a more precise term than “process”?

Is this a metaphor/figure of speech for “we share as freely as possible”? If yes, let’s write this.

As mentioned above: If

Then it is not only “acceptable” as in “it will not be punished” but “essential”, like “unavoidable”.

Suggestion 1: “…essential parts of creativity”

Suggestion 2:

Let’s get rid of “accordingly”, the sentence works well without it.


(hellekin) #17

Can I make a tee-shirt with this?


(Elio Qoshi) #18

Taking my words and putting them out of context and replying to that with a seemingly sarcastic comment is not really constructive, don’t you think?


(hellekin) #19

Do you think this was constructive ?

I understand you’re not here for politics. Say hi to Microsoft when they come.

You’re writing a MANIFESTO or what?


(Elio Qoshi) #20

This thread is about the Open Source Design Manifesto. If you have anything specifically to contribute to another discussion you feel emotionally invested in, feel free to open another thread.

Instead of finding things which divide us, it would be great to also look out for things which bring us together.