This isn't an Open Design Manifesto

Open Design Meeting
Image by Fräulein Schiller via Flickr

Recently my good friend (and pioneer of the Open Design movement) Ronen Kardushin, published a Manifesto on Open Design. As Open Design is a dialogue in physical form, always in Beta, always changing - the same should be said of the underlying concepts, hence this response.

I would like to broaden the scope of the Ronen's Manifesto, beyond that of specific machines. As Open Design has at it's core a permission to modify, edit and reiterate, I'm sure Ronen will not object.

Ronen's version can be found here. The initial paragraphs I agree with, however where I stumble is the preconditions.

Open Design method consists of two preconditions:
1. An Open Design is CAD information published online under a Creative Commons license to be down-
loaded, produced, copied and modified.
2. An Open Design product is produced directly from file by CNC machines and without special tooling.
These preconditions infer that all technically conforming open designs and their derivatives are continu-
ously available for production, in any number, with no tooling investment, anywhere and by anyone."

Above everything for me, Open Design is about permission to duplicate, engage with and reiterate designs. Whilst tools enable this, so do processes. Aspects of Open Design practice in the future may also include skillsets, and physical literacy. Open Design is not new, it was here before, we just didn't need a name for it. This isn't yet a manifesto. Just the start of some thoughts. Feel free to discuss, challenge and re-iterate.

Ronen, I thank you for sparking the discussion.

I sent this to Ronin to get some feedback, and this is the response.

Hi Jay,

Yes! let's spark a dialogue!

I read your message three times before I understood what exactly is the difference between our stand on Open Design. I completely agree with what you write; there is this inherent creative energy when the design process is open: reiterations, improvements, unplanned outcomes, collaborations, discoveries. It's a fantastic way to learn by doing and empowers all its participants to create and acquire skills, artistic, technical and social, in a supportive, sharing environment. It also has a political aspect, a clear stand on the way products come into our lives, in contrast to normal consumption, and their authentic relation to their creators and users. But when I speak or write about Open Design, the "design" is like source code, it's the plan, the blueprint, the data itself. Your open design describes a process, mine focuses on the circumstances of information publication and use. The manifesto was written from an industrial designer's point of view and its intended readers are mainly industrial designers as well. It addresses what I perceive as a creative crisis or at least a relevance problem of industrial design (and education) in context of the internet revolution, or a "globally networked information society". Industrial design, as a discipline, never left home. Although it is intensely IT dependent and software based, a designer's creativity is regulated by producers, so when you compare this situation with other information based creative fields, I find it totally unacceptable. This is also why I make a point about CNC production. It allows repeatable production that is easily scalable up to mass production numbers without tooling investment. A product becomes a physical instance of its information, as quickly, cheaply, easily and freely as possible. Still, Open Design can't include all products and fabrication processes, but as an alternative it has many advantages for a designer.

One more thing: Open Design is new. I started my research for my MA on Open Design in 2002, and for three years I was intensely looking for anything that is similar. Nada. There were books and articles that described methods such as Open Source software, Mass customization, User innovation, collaborative development, CNC production etc., but no one has put together OS principals, CNC production  and internet publication. I was inspired by the works of experts such as Eric S. Raymond, Eric Von Hippel, Frank Piller and Design Prof.  Jochen Gross. I think that each one of them has good strong claims, but not the motivation that initially  pushed me to come up with Open Design: To free myself to do what I really love- to design.

Thanks for writing me, we can have more of this ( although I prefer a face to face talk).

I think as a statement of motivation, I love this quote - To free myself to do what I love. I think this is one of the core drivers of the Open Culture. To pursue our joys and our passions, above everything else. This is true freedom.

However the debate still rides, is Open Design a philosophy, a process, or a method of production and distribution? Should we even seek to define it, or does the opportunity lie in the uncertainty of interpretation?

Feel free to add your thoughts here.

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3 Responses to This isn't an Open Design Manifesto

  1. 68 pedro pineda 27.10.2010 10:34

    Thanks guys for spark the conversation!
    I think we are all opening different aspects. (in this case from Design) Maybe Jay, and me, are trying to develop Open Designing. As Ronen describes, he is opening the blueprint of a product, of a finish design. With opening now we can continue to develop it, and so we could say that is always in Beta, however for the person that uploads it, ie: in the web, it is in a finish state. In doing Open Designing we are more focus in the process, in how we do things, how we collaborate to arrive to greater sollutions that are created by the collective mind.
    On the other hand, i find more and more often that defining what we do just create a box around our activity. Look at new music, can really anbody say what is techno, folk, ambiental or hiphop? Everything is mixing and we get inspirations from here and from there to form new things.
    I have to quote many, specially Buckminster Fuller "I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe." and maybe say that we can talk about things, in order to understand them better. But try to not define them, so that they can continue to evolve

  2. 69 Brian 31.10.2010 22:23

    Hi there, I've been reading through what you're doing with Open Design City and it looks great the energy and momentum you've got going there. I'm a product Designer based in Glasgow, Scotland and over recent years I've been tending more towards the direction of open design in how I'd like to approach the creation and delivery of products. It's really great to see this debate happening, the challenge certainly isn't technical, but more how do we organize a project, draw in a community and yes dare I say it, make a living...

    The conventional route of IP and big corporate backing I am more and more sure stifles design and kills local economies, but unless we come up with a viable alternative we are always going to be branded naive dreamers. It was interesting to see what Ronen wrote about crediting works and paying effectively a royalty if someone were to use an openDesign commercially. This is a key point, as the old-fashioned idea of inventing something as an independent inventor/designer, getting a patent, licensing it and then retiring with a million is a fallacy really. If we can encourage this idea of making a modest sum back from design input, and then encourage others who start to dip their toes in through attending fablab type centres, it will grow local economies and the growth of appropriate innovation and technologies. However, on the other hand, if no-one can even keep a roof over their head through openDesign work, it will inevitably always be supported through government or academic funding. I'm really inspired by what Ronen has put together with the start of a manifesto, but I think that balance of fairness, openness and keeping a roof over your head is key, and I think we need somehow to flesh out how that could work in practice. I loved the reference to a mediaeval artisan approach mentioned in the betahaus intro post about open design city, that is absolutely where I'd love to be as a designer.

    How do you all feel about the current version of the OpenHardware licence?

    I've got in contact with some like minded people here in Glasgow recently who have been working for a bit on the idea of setting up a fablab-style centre much in the vein of Open Design City here in Glasgow. They have a group set up on Google groups; They are currently looking at potential spaces and funding models, it would be great to hear from you about your experiences there in Berlin,



  3. 70 Roy 01.11.2010 23:50

    I would agree with Jay that Open Design need not be constrained to CNC producable objects - indeed it is not as if digital fabrication is at the stage where humans are redundant, so any form of CNC producable design still requires someone with the skill of operating the software and hardware to produce the object, not to mention handle the materials at either end of the process. This is no mean feat, and should be acknowledged in the source, with thorough instructions to do with how best to handle the source materials, production data and finish the product. Without that, a .dxf layout or even toolpath is only of very moderate use: Yes, one can use it to develop the design if one is literate enough, but in my opinion the bar for openness should be set a little higher, where the source is sufficient for one who is not necessarily production literate to produce the object.

    Obviously, the open design community is never going to agree on where precisely this bar should be set, so it really comes down to personal values. Luckily for electronic engineers, their production processes are largely much more straight forward, so a definition for Open Hardware has been more unanimously achievable. Personally, I'm hoping that this will set a good example for some sort of benchmark in Open Design generally.

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