Categories: Participation

Participation Lab Notes: The Sweet Spot Between Constraint and Freedom

Over the past few months you might have heard about a growing community called the Community Design Group. What sets this group apart from many of the other communities at Mozilla is that it does not exist in a region, club, or wiki page. It has only the loosest “membership” and you can come, participate, and leave without ever sharing your name.

The Community Design Group is a sort of transactional marketplace that lives primarily on GitHub. Requests for design can be made by contributors and staff, likewise anyone can tackle or contribute to any design problem that emerges into the Repo.

As Elio Qoshi, the community-side driver of the Community Design Group writes in his blog post:

This allows for a quick contribution path for new contributors in a decentralized manner.  Different labels determine what kind of context issues have, neatly sorted in UX, IX, UI and general Graphic Design, to allow contributors from various backgrounds to jump in.

Since it’s inception in mid-January 25 design problems have been closed ranging from the design of full websites, logos, and style guides. In the past 30 days alone the Repo has received over 2,000 views and 1,000 unique visitors and it exists and flourishes with only minimal staff and community-leader involvement.


CC-BY-SA Elio Qoshi

Despite this early success there is still a great deal to be learned about this model. One of the early realizations about the Community Design Group was the tendency of the community to focus on the creation of logos. These fun and creative projects are excellent opportunities for designers to show their skills and learn from each other, but could potentially dilute the already somewhat crowded logo-sphere of Mozilla.

CC-BY-SA Jenn Sanford

CC-BY-SA Jenn Sanford

Rather than put any stop-energy into the community, we are experimenting with sharing more high-impact opportunities for contribution, initially in the form of a challenge related to the re-branding of Mozilla. In this challenge we’re asking the design community to suggest a new iconic symbol for Mozilla that will shape the thinking of the Creative Team.

In contrast to the well-defined, quick victory, of logos this challenge is ill-defined and complex.
This challenge will close at the end of April and we will have the opportunity to see not only what emerges from the creative pool, but how this work is integrated into the work of the staff team.

CC-BY-SA Sashoto Seeam

CC-BY-SA Sashoto Seeam

The basis of the Community Design Group project was to see what would come of a simple place with minimal rules, where a decentralized community could come to share and create. It is a testament to the power of minimal restriction and functional tools. Over the next quarter I look forward to seeing how far it will grow, and what amazing contributions will emerge from this new community.

One comment on “Participation Lab Notes: The Sweet Spot Between Constraint and Freedom”

  1. André Jaenisch wrote on

    Hi, Lucy,

    the description of the project (watched now by me) reminded me on a diagnosis on the developer’s mailing list ( of my distro.

    It reads like this:
    FMPOV, contributors are becoming more and more volatile. Being fully involved in a few projects is not anymore the way most people go. They rather contribute on small areas for a lot of rojects about what they’re interrested in.

    So this experiment may be the right way to raise contributions.

    Kind regards,

    André Jaenisch