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SXSW Session Recap: Transparency, the Key to Good Design

Else Blake

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In my first session at SXSW, I heard Eric Snowden, Senior Director of Design at Adobe, speak on “The Future of Experience Design” — but in truth, he talked less about design and more about the importance of transparency.

“You can’t innovate if you try to do it alone,” he pointed out. This is where transparency comes in: you can’t get better if you don’t lay it all out on the table; imperfections and failures … embrace them. This is where having an honest team and listening to user feedback is crucial to creating a successful product.

Snowden noted that transparency fosters a culture of trust, innovation, and communication —with employees and customers. Internally, when Adobe creates a process or tool that works, they automatically ask, “If I make this, does anyone else need this?” — in hopes of breaking down siloes and sharing knowledge to make everyone’s work better. Externally, they love user feedback and are transparent in their responses to it, finding that dynamic key to building products that work.

Snowden demonstrated a number of design innovations in development at Adobe, including:

  • Variable fonts — the ability to modify fonts gradually, so that they morph using a slider instead of only choosing, for example, a simple button input for bold
  • Creative livestreaming — the ability to stream your work for tutorials and knowledge sharing, with chat and comments
  • Ephemeral posts — the ability to post works in progress for feedback, which won’t necessarily live in your “permanent record" 
  • Real-time collaboration — the ability for several people to edit a file at once, improving collaboration efficiency
  • Moving beyond touch — the ability to interact with your devices more simply, such as through voice and gesture, rather than only by typing, swiping or touching
  • Project Dali — an augmented-reality/virtual-reality project to use technology to paint

Transparency fosters collaboration, innovation and successful design solutions — at Adobe, at Intouch, and everywhere else. Snowden’s session gave a glimpse into how Adobe is working to evolve design’s role in the industry, but his focus on transparency was a novel focus on not just what they’re doing, but how it’s made possible.

Clarity and honesty has the potential to help all of us in our work, whether it’s building feedback mechanisms for patients to talk to pharma companies or doctors, or using techniques to keep lines of communication open in our own teams. This was a great reminder of how one of the industry leaders values and prioritizes it, and how we all can and should as well.


 

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