IBM Design
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IBM Design

Blockchain Design Principles

What our team has learned so far—about business and user needs specific to blockchain—that informs our design work.

Design for trust

Data Exposure

Some users require more exposure to blockchain data than others—many will need to see how the blockchain technology is replacing their previous processes to feel that it is trustworthy. The exposure of data affects users’ understanding of how the application works. For example, data indicates that a function call took place, or it serves as proof that something is cryptographically secure.

People want to “see the blockchain” even when they don’t need to.
  1. If the data is not actionable, it must be serving a trust-building and/or educational purpose.


Establishing visual consistency across products and the customer experience is essential to the perception of trustworthiness. We use grid based layouts (with meaningful and proportional negative space), strong typographic hierarchy, and apply color with meaning.

Constant Feedback

We help our users understand what is happening and reduce anxiety by designing constant feedback. Motion and animation, used sparingly, supports understanding of what is happening.

Allow for and anticipate mistakes to be made

Because a blockchain is effectively immutable, we pay extra attention to user actions that are irreversible. We add in levels of friction or confirmation to reduce error and direct to next steps, should a mistake occur.

Active Guidance

Zero states are common in many of our products, so we make sure to provide a natural next step. Users must have clear, persistent navigation — they should easily know how to get back to a previous state and what their next step is.


Excitement for blockchain technology increases the tendency to focus on machine needs over human ones. As designers, we must constantly refocus our efforts into solving problems and making delightful experiences for human beings. We must balance the tension between the nature of blockchain and human-centered design.

Some of the many visual iterations for how we visualize blockchain concepts.



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Sarah Baker Mills

Director of Product Design @DocuSign, previously @ConsenSys, @IBMBlockchain, @TheAtlantic/@AMStrategy.