Open Source and Open Design

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It all started, I guess, with computers, or better with software, from general programs, such as Open Office, The Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc., to entire operating systems such as Linux, and others. Now open source has gone further that that and will enable people not just to connect and cooperate but to help “save the Planet” but also to create businesses.

Aside from Open Source computer operating systems and general programs we now also have Open Source Design and this is what really could make a real difference, not that the computer programs don't. They too have their place in this revolution of all things.

In a book, to be published in May 2019 by Thames & Hudson, called “Futurekind”, many kinds of such Open Source Designs are being showcased.

But what does Open Source Design, also called open-design, mean?

The open-design movement involves the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. This includes the making of both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware. The process is generally facilitated by the Internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy of the movement are identical to that of the open-source movement, but are implemented for the development of physical products rather than software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company.

The open-design movement currently unites two trends. On one hand, people apply their skills and time on projects for the common good, perhaps where funding or commercial interest is lacking, for developing countries or to help spread ecological or cheaper technologies. On the other hand, open design may provide a framework for developing advanced projects and technologies that might be beyond the resource of any single company or country and involve people who, without the copyleft mechanism, might not collaborate otherwise. There is now also a third trend, where these two methods come together to use high-tech open-source (e.g. 3D printing) but customized local solutions for sustainable development. Open Design holds great potential in driving future innovation as resent research has proven that stakeholder users working together produce more innovative designs than designers consulting users through more traditional means.

Design per se can and must play a new and proper role in human development and in advancing everyone everywhere. Design, good design, also holds the key to the avoidance of waste. It is not rocket science because that kind of design has been with us before, as has repairability, even by means of DIY by the user (or someone with some knowledge).

Open design, on the other hand goes a step or ten further in that open design in the design, often downloadable, which is then turned by a small enterprise. or the end user him- or herself, into the desired product with, often, the added plus that the design can, because it is open source, be modified to fit a need. No longer does a corporation or corporations hold the key to the design and end-product but the people as a whole.

Sometime the designs cost a small amount, at other times, and that quite frequently, at least the basic ones, are free. The machines to make the products are often also open-source designed in such a way that they can, more or less, easily be made from scrap, including 3D-printers. Making those machines, though, does require a small workshop set up, generally, or at least a welder and the knowledge of how to use one.

Open source and open design are a great way of reducing waste, as well as production and distribution costs and transportation footprint. We now have clothing design that is downloadable and the garments are then made more or less locally to where they will be bought and used. With the technology of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacture), especially via means of 3D-printing, as well as other varieties, many things could and can, literally, be made in a domestic garage or garden shed, including the making of spares for a variety of things, or the very parts to make a product, to complete 3D-printed products themselves.

With open source software older computers can be kept alive, so to speak, for much longer and if they are also of the desktop variety rather than the laptop or even smaller kind then they can also be hardware upgraded and repaired, and thus run almost indefinitely. Though here open design can also come in additionally in that computers themselves could be designed in this pattern to that people could build, upgrade and repair their own without, necessarily, having to resort to a specialist. It doe not need (all) to be throw-away, especially considering that there is, actually, no such place as “away”.

© 2019