Here are some notes from the “Design By Committee” talk I am working on. I am publishing the notes and the slides here for your reference. Please let me know what you think (comment).
Collaborating on design is like collaborating on code when no one knows which language the project is written in. (defining a graphic/interaction language is a part of the design process)
Building Blocks, granularity and transparency
The building blocks in the open source world are as granular as single characters both for code (software) and writing (wikis). That’s not the case with design and hence it is harder to collaborate and harder to track changes (no version control for visuals or for interaction models)
Cognition and data processing
The processing of the data is cognitive and not computational – while a computer software can read a patchy server code and still manage ins and outs, a mind finds it much harder to process a message inconsistently formated.
The decision making process in software development and to a large degree in wiki projects like Wikipedia is based on objective logic – if your software patch runs better/faster/safer than mine, we should use yours. Try translating that to design and you lose the absolute empiric decision making tools.
Modular Design Structures
While typography is definitely a module extensively used by design, you do not see much other modular elements in use. Unlike with coding, I do not start my design work by collecting existing design libraries, design modules or design snippets.
*This point is seeing some change lately, as there is more shared innovation around interface modules. The image lightbox is a good example for that. But one might say that the collaboration happens more in the technical side, and less in the design of the module (someone designed a lightbox, others copied the interaction and programed it in different ways)
Invest in Granular Tools
More designers are already using HTML/CSS markup to have more control over their web design. With HTML/CSS becoming more robust more and more apps are actually using it for their front end, both in mobile and desktop applications. Being code based html and css allow for just as much code versioning and transparency as any other code. I say, let’s get designers on version control systems.
Analytic Resource Sharing
Some of the decisions in design, especially interaction design can be based on rational empiric research.