Category: Consultancy (page 2 of 2)

Towards a visual hierarchy of Open Badges

This week I’ve been working with a client on the first stages of a visual hierarchy for Open Badges. This is more complex than it sounds and there are a couple of things that you should have a look at before reading further. The first is Carla Casilli‘s post A foundational badge system design, and the second is the Badge Studio* created by Andrew Hayward during his time at Mozilla.

Badge Studio

* This is an Open Source project and can be found on GitHub here.

What I like about the Badge Studio approach is that it:

  • is easy to use
  • has a visual hierarchy baked-in
  • makes it very difficult not to follow a style guide
  • removes the bottleneck of visual badge design


As with everything, the simpler and more intuitive something looks, the more work has gone into it in the first place. Here’s some variables we identified for badges across the group of companies of which my client is part:

  1. Organisation
  2. Badge name
  3. Badge yype
  4. Icon/glyph
  5. Level
  6. Logos/brand
  7. Pips (as on military insignias)
  8. Expiry
  9. Meta status (i.e. whether it’s part of, or is a meta-level badge of badges)


I’m sure there are others to consider, too. From there we looked at the most obvious differentiators, deciding upon shape and colour. Happily, there’s already a defined colour palette in place for each organisation that’s part of the group. They’ve also just launched a new group identity that includes five different shapes! Perfect.


We agreed in the preliminary meeting that we’d try and reduce the amount of text on the badge itself. This was for two reasons: (i) users should only ever be a click away from the metadata contained in the badge, and (ii) text is likely to be difficult to read if the badge is displayed at a small pixel size.


Theoretically, every badge issued could be both a ‘meta-level’ badge made up of smaller badges and itself part of a larger ‘even-more-meta-level’ badge. It’s potentially turtles all the way down. To prevent this potential/perceived complexity, I’ve proposed we limit the number of layers to three. This chimes well with Carla’s work mentioned above. In practice, this leads to very simple and straightforward badge pathways – which, if you want, get way more complex.


Creating an ecosystem of value is an extremely difficult thing to do. Essentially, you have to have to create enough productive ambiguity for it to be flexible and adapt to different contexts, while simultaneously giving people enough structure to get started. The way I’m proposing we approach that in this example is to:

  • Nail down badge colour (organisation) and badge shape (type)
  • Place a limit on the number of badges that can count towards a meta-level badge (perhaps six, using Trivial Pursuit as a metaphor?)
  • Keep iterating on the taxonomy we’ve started.
  • Look into what makes a good icon for an iOS/Android app (they rarely include text)
  • Consider where/how to show both my client’s brand and the brand of any organisation they partner with.
  • Create/keep a list of badge display requirements that are separate to the badge itself (e.g. how ‘expired’ badges look within a profile)
  • Look into forking Badge Studio to create a version for my client’s group of companies.

If you’ve got examples of a good hierarchy of visual design for Open Badges, I’d love to see it! 🙂

PS You’ve completed my 2015 reader survey, right?

The Next Chapter

The week just gone was my last as a paid contributor to the Mozilla Foundation. I wrote about that here. It’s been a while coming — I set up Dynamic Skillset on 23rd December last year and had set myself the target of becoming fully independent by this September. In terms of planning, my brain still works in terms of academic years…

Happily, a couple of organisations almost bit my arm off when I approached them about doing some consultancy work. I’ve chosen to work with City & Guilds for five months (in the first instance) helping them with various things— including Open Badges. I’m really looking forward to catalysing meaningful change within organisations.

Although it’s perhaps not appropriate to name here all the people who have helped me over the past few months, you know who you are. I definitely couldn’t have taken this step without them. From encouragement before Christmas when I was considering a change, to practical advice on setting up as a limited company, I feel extremely fortunate to be connected to such a generous network. Thank you all.

As ever, I’ll be working as openly as possible and pushing others to do likewise. I’ve never been particularly driven by financial gain: it’s doing interesting and important stuff with awesome people that’s important to me. Life’s too short to spend doing things just for the sake of money.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
— Thomas Edison

Please do get in touch if you think I can help your organisation. I’m particularly interested in stuff around digital/web/new literacies, Open Badges, alternative accreditation, open education — you know the kind of things I do.

Remember: I’ve only got so much capacity, especially until September, so let me know sooner rather than later!

"change the world or go home"

Soft-launching Dynamic Skillset, my new consultancy

I’m delighted to this week soft-launch my new consultancy, Dynamic Skillset.

This weekend I received some great feedback from my Twitter network as well as those who read my weekly newsletter. I’ll continue to iterate on the design of the site, but I’m pleased with the way it currently looks.

In the first instance, I’m going to focus my consultancy’s main offer on the intersection of Digital Literacies, Open Badges, and Learning Pathways:


It’s what I know best, and I think I can add most value to organisations in this area.

I’ve got three speaking/workshop sessions booked this month:

While I’m always enthusiastic about speaking and running workshops for those new to these areas, I’m also interested in working closely with organisations over the medium to long-term to effect meaningful change. I’m currently talking to a couple of potential (pretty big-name) clients about this.

As I’ve limited capacity at the moment, if you think you or your organisation might be interested in what I’ve got to offer, it all begins with an email:

Questions? Comments? Add them below! I’ll do my best to answer them.

Your questions answered about Dynamic Skillset, my upcoming consultancy

I’ve mentioned in passing in a couple of posts so far this year that I’m launching an ‘artisanal’ consultancy in 2015. Dynamic Skillset Ltd. is already registered with Companies House, so (understandably) I’ve had many questions from friends, colleagues, readers and followers about what I’m planning to do with it.

To help answer these, I put together a short FAQ. Around 50 people have signed up for updates at, so as part of Issue #1 of Dynamic Skillset’s monthly newsletter, I answered the following questions:

Why ‘Dynamic Skillset’?

It’s not enough these days to be merely ‘good’ in one field. To remain competitive, to integrate innovative techniques into your personal workflow or organisation’s system, a ‘dynamic skillset’ is required. Hence the name.

When do you launch?

We’ll be launching over the course of 2015 with a few select clients across the public, private and third sectors.

What relationship does Dynamic Skillset have to Mozilla?

While Doug will continue in a full-time capacity for Mozilla, there is no formal relationship or affiliation between Dynamic Skillset and the Mozilla Foundation. Doug will be working with clients at times outside the hours he is contracted with Mozilla.

What’s the best way to make an enquiry?

It all starts with a no-obligation email. You can hit reply to this first newsletter, or you can compose an email and send it to More detail is better than less, but at a minimum it would be good to know:

  • Location
  • Organisation
  • Type of work
  • Timeframe

How much do you charge?

This is something we can work on that once you get in touch. Part of this being an ‘artisanal’ consultancy is that it is entirely bespoke to the organisation and context.

Note: for UK-based work (or that which doesn’t require travel) that Dynamic Skillset won’t charge for expenses such as travel and accommodation. There are also incentives for booking three or more days. This is to encourage meaningful individual/organisational change.

More questions?

Just ask! Again, hit reply to this email or compose one to

In the next issue of the Dynamic Skillset newsletter I’m planning to link to research, interesting articles, etc. around open education and organisational change. Feel free to sign up on the Dynamic Skillset website.

Questions? Please do shoot me an email or simply add a comment to this post!