Examining Another Lens

Encouraging cross-discipline collaboration through Open Source.

Categories: Behind the Scenes, Projects — Adrian Cleave

At Airbnb, we are on a mission to ensure that everyone, anywhere feels a sense of belonging. Our latest open source project, Another Lens, is designed to help us and others consider all perspectives in order to create radically inclusive products. We believe this product can reduce the impact of bias while fostering collaboration and uniting disciplines — in fact, it was created through these practices, which embody our open source philosophy. Before deep diving into Another Lens, it is important to unpack this philosophy as it provided our framework for the project.

 

Our Philosophy: Open tools, open teams

Our design organization is continuously innovating on better ways to build so that we can use our time to solve challenges that go beyond a digital product and affect communities. We believe that the innovation required to solve these problems effectively comes from multi-disciplinary collaboration, both within and outside our organization.

The main principle in our open source philosophy is that the projects we share bring overlapping communities and practices together. As we start to release more tools and resources, our ambition is to connect a broader range of backgrounds, allowing us to tackle the collaboration gap that tends to slow down innovation. The projects we release aren’t limited to disciplines like design and engineering; in addition to our pixels and code, we aspire to open source our content, methods, and data that span multiple disciplines — all of equal value and importance. As a result, we’ll share projects from varying disciplines like research and localization. We share our work on GitHub, a home for largely code-based work, but one we’ve found receptive and an ideal partner for a wide variety of our collaborative initiatives. And in the moments where we can’t open source our work, we’ll share our thinking through articles, videos, and other methods.

Our open source philosophy: the projects we share bring overlapping communities and practices together.

Our current array of open source tools bring animators, designers, and developers together. For example, Lottie, our open source animation tool, connects animators, designers, and engineers. Lottie allows native apps to use animations as easily as static assets, which creates opportunities for engineers to build richer animations without rewriting them. Another open source tool, React-sketchapp, is designed specifically to bridge the gap between designers and engineers working on design systems at scale. The tool is an open-source library that allows people to write React components that render to Sketch documents. These are just two examples of projects that serve many communities and elevate collaboration.

There are a few questions we ask ourselves before deciding what to open source. Does this provide real value and empower the community in some way? Does it enable collaboration and foster empathy across communities or disciplines? Is this foundational enough to serve as a building block that can be evolved by the community in unforeseen ways? We want to design a world that’s more open, and that starts with being more open with our creative work.

Building Another Lens

Our open source tenets were the building blocks for Another Lens, which was born out of collaboration. We created the project in partnership with journalism startup News Deeply. Together, we recognized that designers and journalists face similar challenges: we cannot serve our communities without first truly understanding their needs and stories. Like a journalist, a designer must ask the right questions. We wanted to create an experience that made addressing biases and assumptions less abstract, moving people from self reflection into action. Our SF Design Week Installation, Shadow to Light, created an interactive experience for attendees to embark on this journey; but we want anyone, anywhere to share this experience with us. And so, with the help of News Deeply, we created a virtual deck of cards that puts some of those most important questions at your fingertips. Each question (15 in total) provides context around biases and suggested steps forward. Our hope is that our questions and principles can lead to more considerate, inclusive design.

Another Lens was created through collaboration between interdisciplinary teams – researchers, designers and journalists – that bring a diversity of perspectives to the table. We hope this tool will be a powerful resource for creatives working in all industries, and foster empathy and inclusion.

Explore Another Lens here or on Github. We look forward to your feedback.

 

Another Lens Project Team

News Deeply: Charlotte Alfred, Kim Bode, Preethi Nallu and Laura Mandel

Airbnb: Anne Diaz, Katie Chen, Meredith Schomburg, Vero Maldonado, Judd Antin, Brian Harrison, Sola Biu and the Airbnb Experience Research team

 

Adrian Cleave is Director of DesignOps at Airbnb, father of two girls, technology optimist and occasional pianist.

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