Open design

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The resources on this page enable learners to access materials related to the subject of ‘Open design’. The materials consist of internal contents; sourced from articles in Wikipedia and external hyperlinks. Open design is a disruptive, multifaceted construct that has been shaped by influential conditions and properties. By categorizing the materials into distinct sections, this resource page explores some of these conditions and properties, in a way that informs the reader and nurtures a better understanding of the subject area. Teachers and those who are familiar in this subject area are actively encouraged to extend this page.


This section introduces the subject area by first asking ‘What is Open design?’ According to Wikipedia Open design is the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. Open design involves 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 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.


This section examines some of the influential movements that has helped shape open design. In late 1998, Dr. Sepehr Kiani (a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT) realized that designers could benefit from open source policies, and in early 1999 he convinced Dr. Ryan Vallance and Dr. Samir Nayfeh of the potential benefits of open design in machine design applications. Together they established the Open Design Foundation (ODF) as a non-profit corporation, and set out to develop an Open Design Definition. The idea of open design was taken up, either simultaneously or subsequently, by several other groups and individuals. The principles of open design are closely similar to those of open-source hardware design, which emerged in March 1998 when Reinoud Lamberts of the Delft University of Technology proposed on his “Open Design Circuits” website the creation of a hardware design community in the spirit of free software. Ronen Kadushin coined the title "Open Design" in his 2004 Master’s thesis, and the term was later formalized in the 2010 Open Design Manifesto.

Moreover, the open source movement has been an influential factor in shaping open design. Rooted in software, the open source movement is a broad-reaching movement of individuals who support the use of open source licenses. Open source software is made available for anybody to use or modify, as its source code is made available. Some open source software is based on a share-alike principle, whereby users are free to pass on the software subject to the stipulation that any enhancements or changes are just as freely available to the public, while other open source projects may be freely incorporated into any derivative work, open source or proprietary. Open source software promotes learning and understanding through the dissemination of understanding. The main difference between open source and traditional proprietary software is in user and property rights, the conditions of use imposed on the user by the software license, as opposed to differences in the programming code.

Open source software[edit]

Open design consists of software and hardware components. This section will review the former and list prominent open source concepts in software relative to open design.

Concept General Description
Free and open-source software Free and open-source software (FOSS) is computer software that can be classified as both free software and open-source software. That is, anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright and the source code is usually hidden from the users.
Free software Free software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute the software and any adapted versions. The right to study and modify software entails access to its source code. For computer programs that are covered by copyright law, this is achieved with a software license by which the author grants users the aforementioned freedom. Software that is not covered by copyright law, such as software in the public domain, is free if the source code is in the public domain, or otherwise available without restrictions.
Open-source software Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. Open-source software is the most prominent example of open-source development.

Open source hardware[edit]

Open design consists of software and hardware components. This section will review the latter and list prominent open source concepts in hardware relative to open design.

Concept General Description
Open hardware Open-source hardware (OSH), consists of physical artifacts of technology designed and offered by the open design movement. Both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware is created by this open-source culture movement and applies a like concept to a variety of components. It is sometimes, thus, referred to as FOSH (free and open-source hardware). The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it - coupling it closely to the maker movement. Hardware design (i.e. mechanical drawings, schematics, bills of material, PCB layout data, HDL source code and integrated circuit layout data), in addition to the software that drives the hardware, are all released under free/libre terms. The original sharer gains feedback and potentially improvements on the design from the FOSH community.
Open-source computing hardware Open-source computing hardware are computer systems or elements with open design—designed as open-source hardware, using open-source principles. Open source hardware projects that includes computer systems and components include: 1) Bug Labs – a handheld prototyping system based on the Texas Instruments OMAP3530 with ARM Cortex-A8 (600 MHz) and Angstrom Linux and 2) Ethernut – open-source electronics prototyping platform for building tiny embedded Ethernet devices.
Open-source robotics Open-source robotics (OSR), is a branch of robotics where the physical artifacts of the subject are offered by the open design movement. This open design movement applied to the field of robotics makes use of open-source hardware and free and open source software providing blueprints, schematics, and source code. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it - coupling it closely to the maker movement.

Models of innovation[edit]

Open design may use different models to innovate and develop its products. This section lists and reviews some of these prominent open models.

Concept General Description
Crowdsouring Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially an online community, rather than from employees or suppliers. It was coined in 2005 as a portmanteau of crowd and outsourcing. This mode of sourcing is often used to divide work between participants, and has a history of success prior to the digital age—"offline". By definition, crowdsourcing combines the efforts of numerous self-selected volunteers or part-time workers; each person's contribution combines with those of others to achieve a cumulative result.
Open innovation Open innovation is a term promoted by Henry Chesbrough, adjunct professor and faculty director of the Center for Open Innovation at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, in a book of the same name, though the idea and discussion about some consequences (especially the interfirm cooperation in R&D) date as far back as the 1960s. The term refers to the use of both inflows and outflows of knowledge to improve internal innovation and expand the markets for external exploitation of innovation.
User innovation User innovation refers to innovation by intermediate users (e.g. user firms) or consumer users (individual end-users or user communities), rather than by suppliers (producers or manufacturers). Eric von Hippel and others observed that many products and services are actually developed or at least refined, by users, at the site of implementation and use. These ideas are then moved back into the supply network. This is because products are developed to meet the widest possible need; when individual users face problems that the majority of consumers do not, they have no choice but to develop their own modifications to existing products, or entirely new products, to solve their issues. Often, user innovators will share their ideas with manufacturers in hopes of having them produce the product, a process called free revealing. 
Prosumer A prosumer is a person who consumes and produces media. It is derived from "prosumption", a dot-com era business term meaning "production by consumers". These terms were coined by American futurist Alvin Toffler, and were widely used by many technology writers of the time."Prosumer" is also a trade term, used from a business perspective, for high-end electronic devices (such as digital cameras), meaning a price point between "professional" and "consumer" devices.
Co-creation Co-creation is a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome. Co-created value arises in the form of personalized, unique experiences for the customer (value-in-use) and ongoing revenue, learning and enhanced market performance drivers for the firm (loyalty, relationships, customer word of mouth). Value is co-created with customers if and when a customer is able to personalize his or her experience using a firm's product-service proposition – in the lifetime of its use – to a level that is best suited to get his or her job(s) or tasks done and which allows the firm to derive greater value from its product-service investment in the form of new knowledge, higher revenues/profitability and/or superior brand value/loyalty.
Participatory design Participatory design (originally co-operative design, now often co-design) is an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable. Participatory design is an approach which is focused on processes and procedures of design and is not a design style. The term is used in a variety of fields e.g. software design, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, product design, sustainability, graphic design, planning, and even medicine as a way of creating environments that are more responsive and appropriate to their inhabitants' and users' cultural, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. It is one approach to place making.
Modular design Modular design, or "modularity in design", is a design approach that subdivides a system into smaller parts called modules or skids, that can be independently created and then used in different systems. A modular system can be characterized by functional partitioning into discrete scalable, reusable modules, rigorous use of well-defined modular interfaces, and making use of industry standards for interfaces. 
Open-source-appropriate technology Open-source-appropriate technology (OSAT) refers to appropriate technology designed in the same fashion as free and open-source software. OSAT refers to, on the one hand, technology designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of the community it is intended for. On the other hand, OSAT is developed in the open and licensed in such a way as to allow their designs to be used, modified and distributed freely.

Processes, procedures and guidelines[edit]

This section lists and reviews some of the prominent open working processes, procedures and guidelines that are practiced by stakeholders in open design digital platforms, organisations and projects.

Concept General Description
Open standard An open standard is a standard that is publicly available and has various rights to use associated with it, and may also have various properties of how it was designed (e.g. open process). There is no single definition and interpretations vary with usage.The terms open and standard have a wide range of meanings associated with their usage. There are a number of definitions of open standards which emphasize different aspects of openness, including the openness of the resulting specification, the openness of the drafting process, and the ownership of rights in the standard. The term "standard" is sometimes restricted to technologies approved by formalized committees that are open to participation by all interested parties and operate on a consensus basis.
Open-source architecture Open-source architecture (OSArc) is an emerging paradigm that advocates new procedures in imagination and formation of virtual and real spaces within a universal infrastructure. Drawing from references as diverse as open-source culture, modular design, avant-garde architectural theory, science fiction, language theory, and neuro-surgery, it adopts an inclusive approach as per spatial design towards a collaborative use of design and design tools by professionals and ordinary citizen users. The umbrella term citizen-centered design harnesses the notion of open-source architecture, which in itself involves the non-building architecture of computer networks, and goes beyond it to the movement that encompass the building design professions, as a whole.
Commons-based peer production Commons-based peer production is a term coined by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler. It describes a new model of socioeconomic production in which large numbers of people work cooperatively (usually over the Internet). Commons-based projects generally have less rigid hierarchical structures than those under more traditional business models. Often—but not always—commons-based projects are designed without a need for financial compensation for contributors. The term is often used interchangeably with the term social production.
Knowledge commons The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet. What distinguishes a knowledge commons from a commons of shared physical resources is that digital resources are non-subtractible; that is, multiple users can access the same digital resources with no effect on their quantity or quality.
DIWO The term “DIWO (Do It With Others)” was first defined in 2006 on Furtherfield's collaborative projectRosalind - Upstart New Media Art Lexicon (since 2004). It extended the DIY (Do It Yourself) ethos of early (self-proclaimed) ‘net art heroes’, who taught themselves to navigate the web and develop tactics that intervened in its developing cultures.  

Procurement and manufacturing[edit]

This section lists and reviews some of the prominent open procurement and manufacturing companies and organisations that are related to open design.

Organization General Description
Shapeways Shapeways is a Dutch-founded, New York-based 3D printing marketplace and service, startup company. Users design and upload 3D printable files, and Shapeways prints the objects for them or others Users can have objects printed in over 55 materials and finishes, these include: plastics, precious metals, steel and food-safe ceramics, which were discontinued and have been replaced by porcelain materials. As of June 20, 2012, Shapeways printed and sold more than one million user-created objects.
Tinkerforge Tinkerforge is an open source hardware platform of stackable microcontroller building blocks (Bricks) that can control different modules (Bricklets). The primary communication interface of the building blocks can be extended using Master Extensions. The hardware can be controlled by external programs written in C, C++, C#, Object Pascal, Java, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, Shell and VB.NET over a USB, Wifi or Ethernet connection, and running on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. This non-embedded programming approach eliminates the typical requirements and limitations (development tools, limited availability of RAM and processing power) of conventional embedded software development (such as Arduino). Tinkerforge hardware and software are both Open Source, and all files are hosted on GitHub.
Arduino Arduino (sold as Genuino outside of the U.S. and U.K due to a trademark dispute) is a hardware and software company, project, and user community that designs and manufactures computer hardware, open-source software, and microcontroller-based kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control physical devices. The project is based on microcontroller board designs, produced by several vendors, using various microcontrollers. These systems provide sets of digital and analog input/output (I/O) pins that can interface to various expansion boards (termed shields) and other circuits.


This section lists and reviews some of the prominent open organisations that support open source practices relative to open design.

Organization General Description
Open Design Alliance The Open Design Alliance is a nonprofit organization of over 1,300 members in 50 countries which develops Teigha, a software development platform used to create engineering applications including CAD. The main idea is to make core graphics technology accessible to software developers allowing them to focus on application development.
Open Source Initiative The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is an organization dedicated to promoting open-source software. The organization was founded in late February 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond, part of a group inspired by the Netscape Communications Corporation publishing the source code for its flagship Netscape Communicator product. Later, in August 1998, the organization added a board of directors.
Free Software Foundation The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a non-profit organization founded by Richard Stallman on 4 October 1985 to support the free software movement, which promotes the universal freedom to study, distribute, create, and modify computer software, with the organization's preference for software being distributed under copyleft ("share alike") terms, such as with its own GNU General Public License. The FSF was incorporated in Massachusetts, USA, where it is also based.

Collectives, communities and projects[edit]

This section lists and reviews some of the prominent open collectives, communities and projects that have employed open source practices relative to open design. Some of these collectives and communities have digital repositories (open source files which are freely shared to other community users).

Collective General Description
RepRap project The RepRap project started as a British initiative to develop a 3D printer that can print most of its own components and be a low-cost 3D printer, but it is now made up of hundreds of collaborators world wide. RepRap is short for replicating rapid prototyper. As an open design, all of the designs produced by the project are released under a free software license, the GNU General Public License.
OpenCores OpenCores is an open source hardware community developing digital open source hardware through electronic design automation, with a similar ethos to the free software movement. OpenCores hopes to eliminate redundant design work and slash development costs.
AXIOM AXIOM is an open hardware and free software digital cinema camera family of devices being developed by a DIY community around the apertus° project.
SatNOGS  SatNOGS (Satellite Networked Open Ground Station) project is a free software and open source hardware platform aimed to create a satellite ground station network. The scope of the project is to create a full stack of open technologies based on open standards, and the construction of a full ground station as a showcase of the stack.
Hackathon A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects. Occasionally, there is a hardware component as well. Hackathons typically last between a day and a week. Some hackathons are intended simply for educational or social purposes, although in many cases the goal is to create usable software.
Thingiverse Thingiverse is a website dedicated to the sharing of user-created digital design files. Providing primarily open source hardware designs licensed under the GNU General Public License or Creative Commons licenses, users choose the type of user license they wish to attach to the designs they share. 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines and many other technologies can be used to physically create the files shared by the users on Thingiverse.
Github GitHub is a web-based Git repository hosting service. It offers all of the distributed version control and source code management (SCM) functionality of Git as well as adding its own features. It provides access control and several collaboration features such as bug tracking, feature requests, task management, and wikis for every project. GitHub offers both plans for private repositories, and free accounts which are commonly used to host open-source software projects.
Open Design Foundation Started by product designer, Garth Braithwaite, this website hosts and reviews materials related to open design, which is guided by his proposed 'Open Source Design Manifesto', which is as follows: I will 1) find opportunities to design in the open, 2) share my design experiences; both the good and the bad, 3) find time for meaningful projects, 4)openly participate in design discussions, 5) work with other designers by choice, 6)improve my toolbox.

Intellectual property and licensing systems[edit]

This section lists and reviews some of the prominent intellectual property and licensing systems employed in open design to allow further dissemination of the open source works.

Concept General Description
GNU General Public License The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL) is a widely used free software license, which guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. The license was originally written by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project, and grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the Free Software Definition. The GPL is a copyleft license, which means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses and the MIT License are widely used examples. GPL was the first copyleft license for general use.
Copyleft Copyleft (a play on the word copyright) is the practice of offering people the right to freely distribute copies and modified versions of a work with the stipulation that the same rights be preserved in derivative works down the line. Copyleft software licenses are considered protective, as contrasted with permissive free software licenses.
BSD BSD licenses are a family of permissive free software licenses, imposing minimal restrictions on the redistribution of covered software. This is in contrast to copyleftlicenses, which have reciprocity share-alike requirements. The original BSD license was used for its namesake, the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), a Unix-likeoperating system.
Creative Commons license A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility and protects the people who use or redistribute an author's work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.
Free Cultural Works The Definition of Free Cultural Works is a definition of free content from 2006. The project evaluates and recommends compatible free content licenses which are published on the website
TAPR The TAPR Open Hardware License is a license used in open-source hardware projects. It was created by Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR), an international amateur radio organization. Version 1.0 was published on May 25, 2007.
CERN The CERN Open Hardware License (OHL or CERN OHL) is a license used in open-source hardware projects. It was created by CERN, which published version 1.0 in March 2011. Version 1.1 was published in July 2011. Version 1.2 was published in September 2013.

Books, articles and academic papers[edit]

Title Type Reference
On the open design of tangible goods Paper Raasch, C., Herstatt, C. and Balka, K., 2009. On the open design of tangible goods. R&d Management39(4), pp.382-393.
Open design of manufacturing equipment Paper Vallance, R., Kiani, S. and Nayfeh, S., 2001, May. Open design of manufacturing equipment. In Proceedings of the CHIRP 1st International Conference on Agile, Reconfigurable Manufacturing, pp. 33-43.
Open design and crowdsourcing: maturity, methodology and business models Paper Howard, T.J., Achiche, S., Özkil, A. and McAloone, T.C., 2012. Open design and crowdsourcing: maturity, methodology and business models. In DS 70: Proceedings of DESIGN 2012, the 12th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Open Design–a map of contemporary Open Design structures and practices Paper Neves, H. and Mazzilli, C.D.T.S., Open Design–a map of contemporary Open Design structures and practices.
DIWO (DO-IT-WITH-OTHERS): Artistic co-creation as a decentralized method of peer empowerment in today’s multitude Article Garrett, M G., 2015. Artistic co-creation as a decentralized method of peer empowerment in today’s multitude, SEAD White Papers, MIT Press.
Open design now: why design cannot remain exclusive Book van Abel, B., Evers, L., Troxler, P. and Klaassen, R., 2014. Open design now: why design cannot remain exclusive. BIS Publishers.