Sharing your process

Even as recently as a few years back, there was this notion that you should keep everything a secret until it was completely finished for fear that your idea would be “stolen.” Social media has opened lots of doors, both good and bad, about information sharing and I think a positive effect has been that a lot of people are more public about sharing their process work. Now, there are certainly reasons to keep certain things private, especially if you’re under a NDA or something, but for more casual, exploratory work, I think there is a lot of value in showing incomplete projects.

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” –Howard Aiken

CRL recently hosted Matt Marino, Assistant Professor of Special Education at Washington State University for a CRL Learns event. During this session, he described his grant project involving video games that are designed to enhance instruction and assessment for all students. Since the project is about halfway complete, he talked about his methods and the progress that has been made so far, but also solicited feedback and answered questions about the project moving forward from this point on. By sharing his process, he is able to gain an outside viewpoint from other experts in the field that he may use to further refine his project as it moves forward. I highly doubt that someone attending that session would go out and recreate the exact same project from scratch based on his sharing of information and by inviting people into his process, he’s able to gain a lot of insight into his work.

Periodically, CRL Learns hosts events called “Workout” sessions which are designed to provide our researchers a forum to talk about their work and then solicit feedback from other about what they’re doing. Here is an example of Jim Knight presenting on his idea of The Big Four.

For designers, a website called Dribbble launched a year or so ago and it’s primary focus is to provide a social arena for designers to share snippets of work (400X300 pixels) and solicit feedback from other designers. Perhaps a logo’s color scheme could be altered or some typography could be tightened and Dribbble provides a way to provide feedback (or support) to your peers in a meaningful way. It’s an interesting forum for opening up what was previously a very closed process.

I have always enjoyed seeing the process work of other designers, not because it gives me something to steal, but because I might learn a new technique to try or some way to be more efficient in my own work. Chris Millspaugh, a good friend of mine and outstanding designer, is very generous when sharing his design process. In this beautiful design for a silk scarf, he shows his process all the way from rough sketches to final product which adds a level of depth to his work. I’d love to see the same kind of process sharing with writers, scientists, teachers, and other creative professionals.

There are other tools for online collaboration out there that might be used in a similar way. Perhaps you share a draft of a document in Google Docs with some colleagues, maybe you use Skype to show off a chart of data you’re trying to construct or you might want to toss out a question on Twitter or Facebook and see what kind of response you generate. You might schedule your own “workout” session in order to gain feedback from others before the final product is handed in. There are often multiple versions of a similar idea, but it’s the creativity that you bring to it that makes it uniquely yours, so why not share your work with the world and gain a fresh perspective on it?

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David Gnojek

I'm the art director/designer for the KU Center for Research on Learning. I also enjoy photography and music.