The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (2023)

To design Strategies that mobilize, in the XXIst Century

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What is the best way to bring a knowledge framework to the world — in the open — to allow as much as possible teams, and individuals of any kind to use it, reflect on it, give feedback and contribute back?

That’s a tough question, we’re learning our way through.

As the loyal reader will know, we started developing the Platform Design Toolkit methodology (some will argue this is actually a methodology, preferring to call it a “method”) in 2013, it started as one canvas, it was used, helped many, and it grew into a complex (too complex?) set of tools, a user guide and more (library of patterns for example). You can check the latest 2.1 release here.

As we had the chance to explain already, we’re on a quest to “demystify platform design”, somehow trying to — more generally — make Systems Thinking something easier to play with. We’re absolutely conscious that this is a complex matter, and the risk of coming up with a complicated solution to this complex problem. On the other hand, we’ve got countless feedback that a guided process has helped many to start their journey into envisioning strategies that mobilize, create new products and services, imagine new ways to develop organizations, without experts’ help!

Who’s the expert anyway, on this matter?

On our way in this journey, we realized that not everyone is ready, or just doesn’t need, to go through a step by step process from mapping ecosystems, to prototyping strategies. The diversity of contexts where this thinking can be applied is huge, and continues to amaze us.

A few months ago, this reflection brought you our first set of 12 Patterns of Platformization, a library is proving to be a very powerful tool in our conversation with adopters. It’s always good, when facing real situations, to bring the patterns on the table and reflect on the ways a particular market can be approached, and shaped for good.

A natural step of this process, is to continue to unbundle this model of thinking, renouncing to the temptation of “bundling” it in more complicated procedures, one-size-fits-all solutions. The key here is to avoid creating an ever more specialised “hammer”, because “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” (thanks bro Stelio Verzera for reminding me this all the time).

Interestingly, by developing this method(ology) in the last few years, we’ve been able to get back to the essence of principles, and here’s what we share with you today, a (first iteration of a) list of 7 Platform Design Principles: you may want to keep these principles handy when designing strategies for the modern, complex, interconnected and digitally transformed world of the XXIst century.

Consider this a first version of your Organizational Revolutions: a short course on Market Realness, to quote, and freely iterate, on the amazing work of Oli Anderson that I’m digging into these days.

How to use these Principles?

These principles are — by far — the easiest thing to use in your daily practice of mobilizing ecosystems through platform strategies. You can apply them to everything you already do, or planning to do, such as a new product or service, a new organization you’re building, or a processes you’re evolving.

(Video) What makes a great design? The 7 principles you need to know

Platform Design Principle #1 — Recognize the potential that grows at the Edge

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (2)

Among all the principles of platform design, this is the most important. Recognizing that small entities (individuals, teams, small organizations) have today an increasing potential to impact their own life, create powerful products and services, transform systems, is key to understand the platform model.

Why? The modern means of production fit in your pocket (smartphones) or your bag (computers), all the knowledge in the world is accessible in the open (open source software, wikipedia, youtube), and from the periphery you can summon an increasing number of centralized utilities (e.g.: computing-as-a-service, machine learning, data).

If one doesn’t consider the potential that grows at the edge, while designing a strategy, this potential will inevitably be lost.

Examples, and reflections:

  • A single employee can transform the future of a company.
  • Apple didn’t hire app developers but helped them to distribute their software.
  • Opendesk doesn’t build furniture: fabricators (using a machine that costs less than 10k USD), are mobilized locally.

Platform Design Principle #2 — Design For Emergence

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (3)

Is it possible to manufacture an ecosystem? No.

Industrial organizations in transformation struggle to understand this principle. Companies have been (slowly) coming to terms with the idea that no one should design a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, but still have hard times understanding that designing a strategy to mobilize — a platform — doesn’t work if no ecosystem is there to be mobilized.

Platform strategies need to be designed to help an existing ecosystem to emerge, thrive and work better: platform design is the equivalent of plugging wires between electric potential. Where a potential exists, the current will flow.

Organizations of all kind need to avoid trying to design mobilization strategies for ecosystems that are not trying to exchange value already: if we agree that the real potential grows at the edge, how can we think to define what an ecosystem needs to achieve… from the center?

Platform Design is the death of inside-out strategies: never start from your capabilities, your assets, or your identity in designing a strategy, think instead how these can help you in creating a strategy that serves an existing ecosystem, exchanging value.

In the ecosystem lies the center of your strategy.

Examples, and reflections:

  • The ecosystem of short-term rental existed for ages, before Airbnb: all was clumsy, complicated, and reputation was hard to leverage. Designing for this existing ecosystem helped Airbnb thrive at a scale that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.

Platform Design Principle #3 — Use Self Organization to provide Mass Customization

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (4)

In the age of the long tail, consumers demand personalized solutions to specific, custom, contextual and personal expectations. If it’s true that technology helps brands to create processes with almost zero marginal cost of production, it’s also true that traditional industrialized processes provide a near zero potential of customization.

Despite brands trying tricks to solve this issue, such as faking personal interactions with AI (remember the chatbot frenzy?), the only intelligence that can understand the context of interaction, and identify the best solution for a specific personal problem, remains the human one.

In few words, there’s no way to industrially generate mass customization, this can only be achieved by helping entities in the ecosystem to self-organize around the potential that producers have, and the expectations of consumers. Trying to respond to the expectations of the Long Tail, with an industrial, control-driven, bureaucracy is a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure: small customers will become unworthy if the cost you need to face to serve them is bigger than the economic opportunity they represent. Here’s where you want the consumer to self-organise in interactions with producers.

As one attendee to our masterclass once said, when doing platform strategies we need to “scale peerness”, our ability to connect peers in interaction. A key part of this principle resides in reducing transaction cost in self organization: as much as a strategy makes it easier to self organize in niches, the smaller the niche it will empower to exist!

In modern times, a broader market is made of many smaller markets.

Examples, and reflections:

  • Airbnb doesn’t impose check-in and check out times, or furniture you need to use, or breakfast menu, all this is agreed in interaction, between guest and host, making a perfectly fit experience.
  • Apple didn’t plan which set of applications were to be developed. It let developers to grow a business out of their 1000 true fans.
(Video) 3.12. Design Principles - Platform and Posture (User Experience Design)

Platform Design Principle #4 — Enable Continuous Learning (in VUCA)

Today’s world lives through continuous disruption, change, transformation. We even coined the term VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) to describe the world we live in. In this context, everyone is looking for new ways of learning, and — reciprocally — every organization is in the learning business.

Modern organizations therefore need to offer participants a promise of accelerated learning. Their message needs to be: “if you join us on the new terms of collaboration (platform), you’re going to learn faster than outside”.

Furthermore, when offering learning opportunities, the journey must be playful, and flow-enabled: participants need to learn step-by-step, first how to interact (onboard), then how to scale and manage scaled interactions (get better), then how to test themselves in new opportunities, new contexts.

Learning must be both competitive (with peers trying to outperform each other) and collaborative, through mentoring and tutoring: helping each other works if there’s a promise of a broader market. To really learn, peers in the ecosystem need to also be allowed to give space to their true passions.

Examples, and reflections:

  • Airbnb has offered thousands of people the opportunity to express their talent and passion for hospitality, helping them become professionals in the industry (as superhost, experience hosts, co-hosts).
  • By offering tools, resources and conferences, Google is offering developers the possibility to scale up their operations, to focus on what they like to do (develop their content), to be part of an international community of like-minded people, and to learn from each other.

Platform Design Principle #5 — Design For Disobedience

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (6)
(Video) The Key Principles To Becoming Your Future Self | Benjamin Hardy

How do modern strategies evolve when the center of the strategy moves out of the organization, into the ecosystem?

In a continuous power shift, from the brand to the consumer, and from the consumer to the ecosystem, we witness the need for the brand to give up the idea that the innovation process can be driven from a central office. It is the ecosystem that innovates, that knows which interactions need to be empowered, and therefore the organization needs to listen carefully.

Indeed, while MIT’s E. Von Hippel pioneered this idea, with the notion of “User Toolkits for Innovation” (letting users self adapt products to their particular needs), today we can talk about “ecosystem innovation toolkits”. Platform strategies should be loose enough to let players adapt their role to their specific context.

Platform designers need to “design for disobedience”, to let the players play at the edge of the rules: if a new, emergent, behavior appears as recurrent, then the platform designer needs to be there to institutionalize it, making it a feature.

This is the way platform shapers embed the Innovate-Leverage-Componentize cycle: first let the ecosystem dictate new expectations, then institutionalize them and leverage them (grow them at scale), within time make them components that the ecosystem can use, to invent something new.

Examples, and reflections:

  • Airbnb has been observing the players creating experiences on top of short-term rentals for years: when it was clear that these experiences were a substantial part of the overall journey, they institutionalized them into one of the key feature of the platform.
  • Let participants play loose roles: design for medical professionals (general), not for physiotherapists (specific).

Platform Design Principle #6 — Design For Interconnectedness

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (7)

What happens when you stop producing solutions, and start designing ways to organize interactions in large scale systems?

This brings the organization to move beyond the very concept of a customer (somebody you design a solution for), and embrace the concept of relationships, and interactions between peers as the key element of business.

When we design to facilitate interactions between producers and consumers of value, we need to intentionally design with, and for both parties. As these parties might be in conflict (trying to maximize their outcomes), we’ll need to make sure to reduce frictions in the relationship, and make them ready to embrace the interaction.

This boils down to reducing the potential conflicts of interest (by helping them to find a common and fair ground), and to make non-zero sum games possible. If the value we generate in the exchange is greater than the original sum of needs and potential, this normally makes the interaction extremely more valuable.

Examples, and reflections:

  • In a marketplace, when two parties interact and generate positive reputation, the sum of the value generated in the interaction goes beyond the value exchanged in the interaction itself: reputation is a long term attractor of other opportunities.
  • Ebay, uses an online mediation service to ensure that disputes between buyers and sellers are set, in a way that is perceived fair to the parties. This increases the willingness to trade.

Platform Design Principle #7— Let go the identity, identify with the whole

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (8)

When trying to capture the opportunities of a connected economy, and world, brands and organizations need to understand that they need to let go of their identity.

This means losing control, therefore potentially renounce to use a particular brand because the brand may be perceived as conflictual with the ecosystem (for example, by competitors that a platform shaper might want to transform into providers).

(Video) 7 Principles of Conversion-Centered Design - Oli Gardner

Renouncing to the brand can also be a way to reduce the impact of negative cases that — inevitably — will happen in a less controlled or vetted ecosystem, where, to a certain extent, the organization needs to open doors to riskiest, and therefore more accessible, players.

If the premise is to grow a bigger market, this market will eventually need to go farther and be less controlled by the organizer. The organizer of the ecosystem will need to identify more with the whole (the objectives of the whole), and think strategies (and business models) that actualize the opportunity for the whole, instead of the organizer alone.

Examples, and reflections:

  • When Google launched Android OS, they deliberately kept the OS as independent by Google. They created a shared governance alliance (the OHA) and, allowing smaller players to play a role, they ended up powering a thriving ecosystem that completely transformed the whole smartphone industry.


From the work we’ve been doing with pioneers and gamechangers of all kinds — from the private sector to the public, from small nimble startups to the most important incumbents of our society — these principles are inherently there, they exist as an expression of the connected society we live in: choose to ignore them at your own peril.

Complying with these principles is the best way to future-proof your ideas today, and to enhance your opportunity to shape larger ecosystems of value creation, making your vision, business or organization one worth joining, for the long term.

For those that want to play with these principles, please find the PDF download here, click on the image below to download.

The 7 Key Principles of Platform Design (9)

Special acknowledgements

We feel we need to thank Millie Begovic R., giulio quaggiotto and Alex Oprunenco for the precious exchanges that — earlier on in the spring, in preparation of the work we’ve been doing with UNDP — helped us understand that, when rolling out a platform mindset in complex system, or organization, principles would have been the only solution. We certainly owe a lot to these conversations. As always we owe a lot to many from our community!

Do you want to learn how to use this methodology from the ones that created and evolve it? Join our upcoming Masterclasses.

A participant once said the masterclass: changed the perception of what is possible”.

Check all available masterclasses here on our website or reach out directly for special deals and large groups.

As you may know, everything we do is released in Creative Commons for you to use. In case you’re getting value out of these reads and tools, we encourage you to click the 👏button and hold down to 20–50 claps as this will help us to get more exposure, and hopefully work more on developing these tools. Thanks for your support!


What are the seven principles give us a good starting point in considering universal design? ›

As discussed, the 7 Universal Principles of Web Design dictate that web pages be: Equitable Use, Flexibility in Use, Simple and Intuitive Use, Perceptible Information, Tolerance for Error, Low Physical Effort, Size and Space for Approach and Use.

What are the principles of design explain each? ›

The principles of design are the rules a designer must follow to create an effective and attractive composition. The fundamental principles of design are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space. Design differs from art in that it has to have a purpose.

What are the 7 principles of testing? ›

The seven principles of testing
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  • Absence-of-errors is a fallacy.

Why is it important to understand the principles of design? ›

The principles of design are the most important part of any design process. Without these principles, it would be very difficult for the users to understand the type of message that the designer is trying communicate.

How does the universal design principle of equitable use apply to people with disabilities? ›

Equitable use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. A website that is designed so that it is accessible to everyone, including people who are blind, employs this principle.

Who benefits from universal design? ›

Applying universal design principles assists people with and without disabilities. For example, using clear and simple language and navigational mechanisms on web pages facilitates use by those whose native language is not the one in which the course is taught, as well as people with visual and learning disabilities.

What do you stand for principles Brainly? ›

Answer: 1 : a general or basic truth on which other truths or theories can be based scientific principles. 2 : a rule of conduct based on beliefs of what is right and wrong. 3 : a law or fact of nature which makes possible the working of a machine or device the principle of magnetism.

How do we apply the principles of arts in the use of the elements? ›

The principles of art represent how the artist uses the elements of art to create an effect and to help convey the artist's intent. The principles of art and design are balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and unity/variety.

Why do you think these principles and techniques are important in creating good pictures? ›

The principles of design are made up of various mixes of the elements of design all put together in one picture, making the picture look better. When more than one principle is used together an artist can create artwork that will amaze people and get good publicity, hopefully benefiting the artist who made them.

What are the 7 principles of photography? ›

There are 7 principles of Photography i.e. Pattern, Balance, Negative Space, Grouping, Closure, Colour and Light/Shadow. By applying these 7 principles, Photographers can create a complete image in the foundation of art theory. Patterns makes sense of the visual world through regularity.

What are the principles of design answer? ›

What are basic design principles? There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity. These principles work together to create visually appealing and functional designs that make sense to users.

What is the most important principle of design? ›

Hierarchy. One of the most important principles in design, hierarchy is a way to visually rank your design elements. Hierarchy is not based on a design styles, but rather the order of importance. A good design leads the eye through each area in priority order.

What is form in principles of design? ›

If an object has height, width and depth, it is a form. A form can be a man-made, geometric shape that is mathematically precise in all its angles and edges, or it can be a natural, organic form.

What are the 7 steps in software testing life cycle? ›

Let's dig into these sequential phases of the software testing life cycle:
  1. Requirement analysis.
  2. Test planning.
  3. Test case design and development.
  4. Test environment setup.
  5. Test execution.
  6. Test cycle closure.
31 Aug 2021

Which of the following statements best describes one of the seven key principles of software testing? ›

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What are the six 6 skills required to become a good software tester? ›

Let us understand the critical technical skill that will place you in a better position to deliver the best at work.
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  • Knowledge of Software Testing Tools. ...
  • Database and SQL Skills. ...
  • Excellent communication skills.
8 Jul 2022

What is the purpose of the elements of design? ›

The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture. Graphic designers use the elements of design to create an image that can convey a certain mood, draw the eye in a certain direction, or evoke a number of feelings.

How important is the elements of design? ›

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What is the importance of design? ›

A Good Design Will Make You Look Good

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What is an example of a universal design approach that can be used to improve the accessibility of videos presented in class? ›

#1: Closed Captioning

In most cases, online courses have a variety of students with unique learning styles. When online learning video content is accessible with captions, it gives all students equal access to the course material.

Why universal design is important in architecture? ›

It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples' needs.

How do you practice universal design accessibility? ›

  1. Avoid stigmatizing and segregating users.
  2. Providing similar ways of use for all users.
  3. Provisions for security, safety, and privacy should be available to all users equally.
  4. Create appealing designs.
23 Jun 2020

What is the main goal of universal design for learning? ›

The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning and give all students equal opportunities to succeed. It's about building in flexibility that can be adjusted for every student's strengths and needs. That's why UDL benefits all kids.

How do universal design principles affect designing interior spaces? ›

Universal design encompasses design principles that make buildings and environments accessible for everyone. Seniors are not the only ones who benefit from this type of design; universal design also provides accessibility and independence for anyone with disabilities and injuries.

How learning principles affect learning? ›

Learning principles are guidelines for the ways in which people learn most effectively. The more these principles are reflected in training, the more effective training is likely to be. Research suggests that they apply equally to domestic and international situations.

How did the application of these learning principles affect learning Brainly? ›

Loved by our community. These applications make learning more joyful and interesting. These principles of learning help the student to clear the basic concepts of learning. Hence, these applications play a very important role to enhance learning.

What are Norman's 7 rules in interactive design? ›

Norman's Seven Principles

Simplify task structures. Make things visible. Get the mapping right (User mental model = Conceptual model = Designed model). Convert constrains into advantages (Physical constraints, Cultural constraints, Technological constraints).

What are the 7 elements of art? ›

ELEMENTS OF ART: The visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.

What are the 5 main design principles? ›

Principles of design
  • Balance.
  • Alignment.
  • Proximity.
  • Repetition.
  • Contrast.
27 Feb 2019

What is the most important principle of design? ›

Hierarchy. One of the most important principles in design, hierarchy is a way to visually rank your design elements. Hierarchy is not based on a design styles, but rather the order of importance. A good design leads the eye through each area in priority order.

What is the golden rule of design? ›

A good interface should be designed to avoid errors as much as possible. However, if something goes wrong, your system should make it easy for users to understand and resolve the problem. Simple ways to deal with errors include displaying clear error notifications and descriptive hints to resolve the problem.

What is the significance of 7 (+ or 2 for human-computer interaction? ›

What is the significance of 7 (+ or - 2) for human-computer interaction? 7 is popularly believed to be the number of unrelated items that people can conveniently hold in short term memory. The + or – 2 refer to the impact of performance shaping factors such as noise, fatigue and distraction on that capacity.

What are Norman's design principles? ›

Norman's main idea is that devices, things, computers, and interfaces should be functional, easy to use, and intuitive. His idea is that there are two gulfs to avoid: the gulf of execution and the gulf of evaluation.

What are the 7 contemporary art forms? ›

However, today contemporary fine art is more than just painting and is defined by 7 fine art disciplines: painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music, literature, and dance.

Why are the elements and principles of art important essay? ›

First and most importantly, a person cannot create art without utilizing at least a few of them. Secondly, knowing what the elements of art are, it enables us to describe what an artist has done, analyse what is going on in a particular piece and communicate our thoughts and findings using a common language.

What are the 8 principles of design? ›

The elements, or principles, of visual design include Contrast, Balance, Emphasis, Movement, White Space, Proportion, Hierarchy, Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern, Unity, and Variety. These principles of design work together to create something that is aesthetically pleasing and optimizes the user experience.

What are the 5 stages of design thinking? ›

The Five Phases of Design Thinking

The short form of the design thinking process can be articulated in five steps or phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Let's briefly explore each of these phases in relation to a practical design process.

How can we use the principles of design in our daily lives? ›

  • Create new habits of working and living. Spread from Frost's book, Design Your Life. ...
  • Make incremental changes. Spread from Frost's book, Design Your Life. ...
  • Make time for it. Spread from Frost's book, Design Your Life. ...
  • Start by sketching out your life. ...
  • Change your life, and work follows. ...
  • Don't beat yourself up.
27 Apr 2018

What is the importance of design? ›

A Good Design Will Make You Look Good

It's quite simple really, a good design will make you look good and help you to stand out from the competition. It allows you to make a positive first impression on potential customers.

Why is it important to apply the principles of layout and graphic design? ›

An effective layout not only looks attractive, but also helps the viewer understand the message the design is conveying. In other words, understanding layout is key when it comes to creating user-friendly, engaging designs, particularly in the realms of web design and advertising.

Where do we use the principles and elements of design? ›

The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create a work of art. The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad - all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.


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