Episode 72

Eriol Fox on Open Source Design and Sustain


March 22nd, 2021

41 mins 26 secs

Your Hosts
Special Guest

About this Episode


Eriol Fox


Eric Berry | Justin Dorfman | Alyssa Wright | Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! Today, we welcome regular Sustainer Eriol Fox, the Head of Design at Open Food Network, who is working on a fully funded PhD at Newcastle University, and also one of the hosts of Sustained Open Source Design Podcast. What is a design, and how does design fit into open source? Eriol tells us their thoughts on programming and one important thing you need as a user experience designer. Find out some of Eriol’s favorite toolsets, what Open Food Network is, and all the other things Eriol thinks about as a community-first person. Download this episode now to find out much more!

[00:01:26] Eriol tells us what they mean by a Design PR. They also explain what they mean by design, since there are a lot of opinions on what design is.

[00:04:36] Alyssa asks Eriol what’s the best way to speak about design and what’s the best way to speak about it without offending anyone.

[00:09:47] Eriol tells us their thoughts about programming and if it requires an additional level of talent that just might come natural to some people and not to others.

[00:14:33] Having been involved for over ten years in seeing the evolution of technologies come about, Eric asks Eriol if they have any preferences, and if they see the direction of technology leading to a way where everything is going to become modularized components.

[00:10:06] Justin wonders what Eriol uses day to day for their tool set and if they only use open source tools. They mention one of their favorites being Penpot.

[00:24:46] Alyssa wonders how Eriol applies these design guidelines when they think about map design. They mention checking out a fantastic designer, Justin Scherer.

[00:27:57] Eriol tells us all about Open Food Network where they currently work.

[00:30:20] Eriol tells us what else they like to do besides what they do now.

[00:34:36] Find out all the places you can find Eriol online.


  • [00:03:07] “And I think it does it a disservice to really talk about it as just a UI uplift ‘cause that really plays into this false narrative that design is just about making things look better. But what it is also doing is improving the experience for these users of a backend system, which is deeply complex.”
  • [00:11:00] “And also I remember I was so fond of one of the backend developers I worked with in my first job, but he routinely would ask me what I was coloring in that day, which is tricky to hear as a designer, especially when you want to engage with a wider community of developers and people that do cool stuff with tech.”
  • [00:12:17] “I really do think, and I know that there are some designers especially that would disagree with me, but I do think that one of the things that you really need, one of the only things you really need as a user experience designer is a curiosity for solving human problems and thinking about why people do the things that they do.”
  • [00:13:03] “So you can operationalize a lot of the empathy process as well, so it’s not something that’s innate skill.”
  • [00:29:15] “I’ve had conversations recently, as recent as this week, with my team about how when lots of PR’s get pushed by contributors or paid members of staff, they actually might be solving Tech Debt, but they might actually be creating user experience debt (UX Debt), and this was a very new term for them.”
  • [00:31:02] “To get a bit mushy for a second, it really gave me the same kind of feelings that I had when I was really involved in my local community development project. So that’s why it felt incredibly natural to be part of the open source community and maybe why it feels like I’ve been around for a long time.”
  • [00:34:11] “Maybe one day we’ll see as many projects that are design related in Outreachy and Google Summer of Code, and maybe even at some point we’ll see a whole scheme which is just for designers in open source.”


  • [00:35:47] Eric’s spotlights are the Open Source Design website and his 3D printer.
  • [00:37:08] Justin’s spotlight is a notifier for GitHub browser extension by Sindre Sorhus.
  • [00:37:47] Alyssa’s spotlight is Open Collective Open Web Docs.
  • [00:38:28] Eriol’s spotlight is a piece of open source software called Jamulus.
  • [00:39:45] Richard’s spotlight is one of his best friends, Simon Vansintjan



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