creativity

Designing for Volatility

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Becoming Anti-Fragile, Anti-Volatile


When we first proposed the initial concepts of Steem Park (a public work funded 100% with cryptocurrency) we understood that one of the greatest obstacles would be volatility.

First, there was the issue of financing. How could we raise money by gathering and earning cryptocurrency if the monetary goalpost was always in motion? Unfortunately at that moment, no New York material providers and contractors were open to accepting a predetermined amount of Bitcoin or Steem. It was completely understandable, too risky on their part when they could instead rely on good ‘ol solid green. This meant that we had to either overcompensate and account for those infamous 10 or 20% drops or find an alternative method of ensuring an outcome regardless of price action.

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Then there was the attitude towards blockchain and crypto in general. The project initiated in May of 2017 and at the time, the initial hype wave of that year was only beginning to swell. We received mixed reactions, mostly skepticism, and much initial enthusiasm that quickly soured after the next CNBC report on how ex-Soviet oligarchs were laundering with Bitcoin. This was a different kind of volatility, one that made securing key partnerships and nurturing public reception supremely difficult.

But, we did end up getting the job done, showcased through our short documentary, below –

Today, we’ll take the case study of Steem Park and explain the pursued strategies that allowed us to operate within this environment of volatility.

Scalability Goes Both Ways


If the price moves, so should the target. Incorporating cryptocurrencies with traditional crowdfunding isn’t going to work and any project development should account for the inevitable dips and rises. Fortunately, understanding these qualities can help inform how to pursue what types of design strategies.

For instance with Steem Park, we settled on a modular approach very early on, allowing for flexibility and iteration depending on how much cryptocurrency was earned and its equivalence in US Dollars at the time it was exchanged. Put simply, the more money raised by the end, the more benches and planters we could implement.

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When the trajectory of cryptocurrency prices looks like a very hazardous rollercoaster, it helps to establish a more flexible mode of creating. Particular design strategies including modular, kit-of-parts, and adaptive afford us more breathing room.

Show, Don’t Tell


Cryptocurrency doesn’t really need to be explained. No, really. If the parties or partners you’re dealing with aren’t too familiar with the technology yet, we as stakeholders in the new technology don’t alway have to be purists. Instead, focus on the impact of the tools. When we utilized Steemit to fundraise with content, we would primarily do so by gathering liquid amounts of Steem and Steem Dollars, two distinct cryptocurrencies that were even more difficult to explain than the more recognizable Bitcoin. Going through the steps ourselves to go from Steem to Bitcoin to USD allowed us to circumvent the need to educate skeptics and instead focus on showcasing the results.

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This is often the method we support when scaling up real-world design projects. Users of Kickstarter don’t need to necessarily understand how the backend of the website works. They do know that if they follow a certain set of guidelines, they may walk away with a substantial sum of investment. Especially with creative products and initiatives, make the work (or some representative scale of it) and allow it to speak for itself. Those who are interested in being involved and emulating your process will make there way in.

Don’t Make Projects Finite


Wrapping back to the need for flexibility, working with blockchain also begs for a different approach towards projects. Rather than bracketing off a beginning and an end to any given work, consider your work to be an ongoing process that requires discernment and constant adaptation. Because the reception and financial quality of crypto is unpredictable, understand when certain prices or conditions would allow the development of particular areas of your work. Always think in terms of scalability and mobilization over cleanly cut end-results.

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Opening off both sides of any project allows a broadening of scope and impact. Maybe the price of any given token hasn’t reached its ideal destination yet or the institution needs to mature a bit in order to be able to integrate blockchain. Having a roadmap that accounts for incremental growth and shifting milestone markers is an ideal situation when growing with crypto.


We hope that these approaches help when seeking to understand such a rapidly transforming industry. Creatives and designers entering the blockchain world to fund a project should understand the risk-factors and embrace them as design constraints. The traditional norm of a dollar = a dollar has its benefits as does the benefit of adaptive and the modular designing used in projects like Steem Park. A new economy is emerging and designing for volatility is the start of this new frontier.


thumbnail illustrated by @carrotcake | graphics by @zsolt.vidak
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