Episode 31

Björn Balazs on Open Usability and how FLOSS can save our privacy


June 14th, 2022

36 mins 59 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


Björn Balazs


Richard Littauer | Victory Brown | Memo Esparza

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain Open Source Design! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source with design. Learn how we, as designers, interface with open source in a sustainable way, how we integrate into different communities, and how we as coders, work with other designers. Our guest today is Björn Balazs joining us from Germany where he works for KDAB and has been a long-term designer in the open space. He also co-founded Open Usability, one of the first initiatives to support Free Software with UX knowledge and practice, which we’ll be talking about today. We learn that Björn is a psychologist and a privacy activist, and what got him involved in design and open source. Find out his perspective on where the limit of what design is, a project he’s working on called polypoly, and a mind-blowing book he recommends that summarizes problems that happened with privacy issues we have and the way we use technology. Go ahead and download this episode now to find out more!

[00:02:08] Björn explains how he got involved in design and open source.

[00:08:01] How does Björn see this perception of designers about themselves outside of the craft and does he think it’s hard for designers to consider themselves designers without having to touch any of the aesthetics?

[00:12:08] We hear where Björn’s perspective is on where the limit of what design is.

[00:14:09] Björn shares advice for projects that want to have better usability studies on their work before they think about redesigning it and how someone would go about implementing those.

[00:16:59] Memo wonders how Björn combines wanting information from the user and respecting their privacy, and he talks about a book called, _The Age of Surveillance Capitalism _and an initiative he joined called, polypoly.

[00:21:31] Richard wonders if Björn has other approaches that people can use to think about how to actively create a culture of practice around anti-surveillance capitalist work.

[00:22:59] Does Björn have any tricks that he uses to have conversations about users and privacy with his colleagues?

[00:28:04] Björn tells us about an active open source design group job board that anyone can go to look at jobs.

[00:30:16] Victory asks Björn if she was new to open source and wanted to contribute, how would she approach that community or project maintainer saying I’ve been watching your project and I think I could help.

[00:32:54] Find out where you can follow Björn online.


[00:13:16] “Design is a process where we all participate, professionals or not.”

[00:14:28] “Doing a usability study on your own as a designer is very dangerous and it’s very hard for involved people to get feedback unless their trained to do this.”

[00:15:20] “What you actually need is a usability strategy, not just a usability study.”

[00:17:29] “I really recommend the book by Shoshana Zuboff called, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”


  • [00:33:24] Memo’s spotlight is the tool, UI Colors.
  • [00:33:50] Victory’s spotlight is the open source community, Aviyel.
  • [00:34:18] Richard’s spotlight is the movie, Hold Fast by Moxie Marlinspike.
  • [00:35:08] Björn’s spotlight is KDE.