Designing for Blockchain 101

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Visualizing the Intangible

Blockchain and cryptocurrency are new mainstream concepts. They rely on never-before-used technologies and employ digital tokens few people have experience purchasing. It’s a new frontier in both understanding and visualizing it for the mainstream consumer. Worst of all, nobody knows what it really looks like.

We at The Creative Crypto have looked at a few creative catalysts in the space, including the joint efforts of Matt Brooks and Griflan on Narrative (Griflan also designed the District0xwebsite) and the video work of Humdinger & Sons on projects like Brave and Sndbox. The increasing need for good UI and UX to symbolize and explain new components of the this technology is leading to more dynamic and compelling products across the crypto ecosystem.

Today, we’ve created the first of many future resources custom tailored for new creative professionals entering into the blockchain fold. The imagery and iconography is the first major hurdle for designers and artists looking to visualize this evergreen environment. With this article, we’re showcasing the must-knows when it comes to crypto’s graphic language.

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B is for Bitcoin

Starting off with the easiest, the slightly tilted letter “B” is likely the most iconic image in the Blockchain world. The “B” symbolizes the first and still to this day most valuable cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and Blockchain have been synonymous to this point. In terms of looks, it’s pretty straightforward with the bold letter and the ends of the dollar hashes on the top and bottom. It is often accompanied with the full yellow circle to make out a gold-colored coin, and also commonly rendered as an actual gold coin with circuitry-like details.

Even when referring to all cryptocurrencies or blockchain systems in general, the Bitcoin B is the most recognized icon of the space and industry, much like how the US “$” sign is used abstractly to signify all paper money and economy.

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Centralized vs. Decentralized

Blockchain’s greatest value proposition lies within its decentralized nature. This new formula is a complete hierarchy shift from what we’re used to, and a reinvention of how information can be accessed and distributed. “Centralized” describes a situation with one central authority controls all input and output. Examples of this include Facebook owning all of our personal data or PayPal being the intermediary (third party) of payments. “Decentralized” is the inverse, doing away with a core authority or company and distributing the responsibilities and information to many more stakeholders.

Blockchains all have different formulas behind them that are each catered towards a purpose. Some have thousands of stakeholders on the same level, some are more structured and incorporate organizational center-points called ‘nodes’, and many are centralized to some degree at this early stage of development.

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Blocks and Chains

Understanding how blocks in a blockchain are formed is critical to visualizing the new immutable system. Instead of having freeform databases of information, this decentralized infrastructure secures transactions and other types of data into secure blocks that cannot be changed afterbeing created. When a new block of information is formed, it contains a cryptographic hash (where the word “crypto” comes from) of the previous block. That linkage creates a chain of blocks… hence, blockchain!

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It is fairly well known by this point that Bitcoin and most cryptocurrencies can be gathered by “mining” with sophisticated computation and helping sustain blockchains, BTC and many cryptos were conceived as an incentivized mechanism to reward miners that put the work in to secure blocks and protect the system.

Today, mining can be done in very different ways as newer blockchain protocols don’t require such computational energy. Instead, tokens can be distributed and earned through more dynamic systems such as social media or creative content like videos, gaming, and blog posts. As some blockchains move away from Bitcoin’s crystallized “Proof-of-Work” system to more communally driven “Proof-of-Stake” infrastructure, there is actually a need for updated visuals on what mining cryptocurrency entails today.

Seeing is Believing

These are just the first few major ‘letters’ in the blockchain alphabet that is evolving each day and as the industry moves forward. The capacity for design to communicate those advancements can make or break the technology’s momentum. Blockchain, cryptography, and the distribution of cryptocurrency are all vastly different now compared to Satoshi’s first archetype from only a decade ago, and will continue to diversify as new models converge with the real world of things.

Designers and creatives unite! There’s a great deal of territory to cover.

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