Transparent Design

How an open creative process transforms teams


Today’s creative teams consist of freelancers, vendors, agencies, and cross-functional in-house departments. Teams of this  size  and caliber need organic collaboration—from pretty much anywhere— with  minimal disruptions. But  keeping everyone on the  same page can  be quite the  task.

At Dropbox Brand Studio, we’re no stranger to this  issue. We have  graphic and web  designers, illustrators, producers, strategists, and writers, to name a few. Keeping our crew aligned at all times involves strategic thinking and organization, while  living and breathing what we call “transparent design.”

Let’s look into  how  a new  creative process can  elevate and streamline your team’s workflow.

Step 1:

Create a transparent Culture

A creative culture isn’t always structured or planned. Creativity happens when inspiration hits. From brainstorms to simple sketches, you can  establish a process that allows for open collaboration and fluidity, wherever your team members may be.

Heres how to create your transparent process:

  • Hold team members accountable with  visibility at every  step
  • Align with your entire team by keeping content and ideas in one  place
  • Solve problems collectively, regardless of where you work
  • Work together and share responsibility

Step 2:

Establish a process

Fluidity  and transparency are keys to cultivating a creative culture. But having an established process saves time and makes transparency even easier. Every team member will be able  to find the  information they  need when they  need it. And they  won’t ever wonder what the  next step is.

One  great way to stay organized is to make a creative process doc. While experimenting with our own creative process doc  template, we found a way to go deeper than a traditional brief. Now, everyone can  get  up to speed faster and in a more meaningful way. It’s completely adaptable, but  it’s a good starting point.

Heres what to put in your creative process doc:

  • Include all key information, like due  dates, stakeholders, and Dropbox links to relevant assets or docs
  • Encourage designers to write about the  problem they’re trying to solve
  • Incorporate a section for creating a mood board of inspirational work
  • Share screenshots of works in progress, and ask for feedback
  • Provide final links to the finished work

Your process all in one place

Dropbox Paper supports your creative process every step of the way. Brainstorm with  your entire team, plan  for projects, and create meeting notes, all in one  place. It’s a tool built  specifically for transparency.

Paper drives innovation at Cannes Lions

A recurring theme at Cannes, and a core part of our company culture at Dropbox, is the foundation of trust required to build a collaborative environment. Companies need to create environments that are safe in order for people feel comfortable sharing their ideas. It’s one  of the  ideals that drove our development of Dropbox Paper.

We wanted to create an open space that encourages teams to share and build  on ideas, even at their earliest stages, when they’re raw, imperfect, and full of possibilities.

Step 3:

Create deeper partnerships

Unlike many ad agencies of yesteryear, pulling back the  curtain to surprise a client is not our preferred way to work.  We want a partnership where both sides contribute, not just critique, and are more invested in the project.

This type of transparency elevates design. It shows stakeholders the considerations, decisions, and compromises we made to arrive at our recommendation. When everyone is invited to be part of the process, it shows that you value their feedback.

A new way to present your work

Do more than just share files—guide people through your work.  This way, your clients get context and you no longer have  to worry  about file names and folder structure

Display your work  in a more engaging and compelling way with Dropbox Showcase:

  • Make your mark: Add your branding to the  files you share, so everything feels professionally packaged and uniquely you
  • Tell a story theyll remember: Use  visual  previews, customized layouts, and captions
  • Get a pulse: Take  the  guesswork out  of engagement by keeping track of who  views, downloads, and comments on the  work
  • Collect comments and compliments: Invite others to give feedback, so you can  see which parts truly shine

Step 4 :

Show how you arrived at your vision

In an  ideal  world,  you’d have  direct access to leadership and would work with them as partners. But that’s not always the case.

Presenting to executives? Show your whole process so the team can see exactly how you got there.

To bring this  thinking into meetings, go in with a point of view, a recommendation.  Paper puts everything together in one place, so you can show partners and clients how you arrived at your vision

You can  preview different file types in Paper without needing the other programs (even  on mobile). You can collaborate on designs without worrying about adding more tools or making sure everyone has access to the  same program.

Step 5:

Reflect on your work

Although you might be ready to celebrate project completion and move to the  next project, taking an honest look at finished projects can  be just as crucial. Reflecting back on your work  enables you to apply  lessons learned to your next project.

Dropbox makes reflection easy.  The  company data you store in your team’s Dropbox account is more than just files. It’s your institutional knowledge. So, why not do more than simply archive files from  your project? Spend time building a retrospective others can learn from.

Why reflection works

In order for reflection to truly work, vulnerability is key. Create a space where people feel  free  to put  themselves out there. Reflection works when you’re open, vulnerable, and transparent.

Heres a simple but effective approach for what to include in your retrospectives:

  • Executive summary: Highlights for those who  want to skim
  • What  happened: Purely  objective statements of facts, as they  happened
  • What  went right:  Great way to reinforce good behaviors
  • What  went wrong: No finger-pointing, just  a list of things to improve next time
  • Lessons for the future: Something to share with  the entire company


Harness the power of transparent design

A culture of transparency elevates accountability, aligns ideas, and shows you’re willing to figure out  problems together. Embrace transparency to achieve deeper and more meaningful collaboration

Dropbox Business helps teams work  transparently and supports their creative flow.