I read an article the other day outlining the unique approach that’s being taken to design the new identity for Mozilla (most well-known for their Firefox web browser). Essentially, the firm that’s designing the identity, Johnson Banks, will be designing the whole brand “in the open”. They’ll be making the entire design process available to the public, showcasing concepts as they’re developed and accepting feedback from the masses. In other words, they’re utilizing open source design in order to create Mozilla’s brand.
In concept, this is a very clever idea. Much of Mozilla’s success is owed to the fact that their applications are open source. Users are involved in the development process and are able to build upon the programs that Mozilla has published in order to add new features and make them better. So, it only makes sense that an open source approach would be taken when designed their new identity… Right?
Personally, I’m a bit skeptical. Having worked on design projects where feedback was provided by a board of individuals, I can attest to the fact that sometimes it’s better to have one unified voice guiding the design process rather than a large group. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the process of taking feedback from a large number of people can be effective. Getting feedback from a larger group can present more unique ideas, diverse points of view, and may lead to coming up with something you never would have thought of on your own. But, more often than not, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary revisions, an end-product that’s ‘safe’ in order to appeal to the masses, and ultimately a bunch of unsatisfied individuals.
I hope for Mozilla’s sake that the process goes smoothly and they end up with a strong new identity, and I certainly respect Johnson Banks for trying to do something innovative. But from my perspective, open source design is leaning more towards unrealistic than futuristic. While I don’t think the design process should be something that’s shrouded in mystery, I also don’t think thousands of people should be involved in critiquing the initial concept phases. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth.
If nothing else, I’ll be following the logo’s evolution closely to see how much the public’s feedback is taken into account during the design process.
What do you think, is open source design the future of the graphic design industry, or an unrealistic attempt to please everyone?