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Tools exist to give the developing world the capacity to build its own technology, to its own needs, and grow richer and more sustainable in the process. Those tools are the tools of collaboration. Open the source code of innovation, and we'll change the planet.

- Alex Steffen [1]


This site is dedicated to the pioneers of peer to peer inspired physical production: Franz Nahrada, Marcin Jakubowski and Amy B. Smith. We also dedicate these pages to the memory of Lawrence J. Rhoades, pioneer of distributed digital production, who passed away last year.

The category was originally proposed and constructed by Franz Nahrada, and aims to encompass every form of design, including of hardware (i.e. Free Hardware Design) and physical production, that can benefit from peer production and open design methodologies.

Goals: the larger context is how to handle a broad shift from centralized, high capital production to decentralized, low capital production, preferably based on Open Designs in order to generate Attainable Utopias.

Our aims are therefore also congruent with the Open Sustainability Network movement, as expressed in the Appropriate Technology platform.

The P2P Foundation supports the aims of the Open Source Hardware and Design Alliance [2] , an initiative to foster sustainable sharing of open hardware and design.

Therefore, this section will be:

  1. monitoring the progress towards a world of constant social innovation based on open designs;
  2. monitoring the expansion of open sourcing in the physical world

For a narrower focus on actually "making things", see our subset section on Open and Distributed Manufacturing

For beginners:

  1. Presentation of open hardware trends by MIT's Technology Review at
  2. Video 1: Eric von Hippel on User Centered Innovation: in fact, for a long time already, users (and user communities) have been responsible for most industrial innovations!! And don't miss this one!!
  3. Video 2: #Delivered in Beta: testimonials on the motivation and reasons for sharing designers, by open designers, 8 minutes, well done


A visualization of the Future of Production by the Institute of the Future
large version

Also: The integrated open design and manufacturing process, a poster by Thomas Lommee at

Below are the guiding principles of this integrated vision:

  • In a networked society, Investment is about sharing beliefs, leading towards decentralised financing platforms.
  • In a networked society, Design is about sharing ideas, leading towards a common design vocabulary.
  • In a networked society, Production is about sharing tools and workshops, leading towards flexible, small-scale production
  • In a networked society, Retail is about sharing interests, leading towards a reconnection between makers and buyers.
  • In a networked society, Consumption is about sharing experiences, leading towards customer-driven innovation.
  • In a networked society, Recycling is about sharing materials, leading towards closed material cycles

Other visualizations

Introductory Articles

Key Arguments

  1. Magius: Difference Between Shared Code for Immaterial Production and Shared Design for Material Production
  2. Key Arguments for the Benefits of Shared Designs
  3. Summary by Kevin Carson: Expanding Peer Production to the Physical World
  4. The economics of open hardware (Liquid Antipasto blog)
  5. Can we shift from open software to open hardware? a) Can peer production make washing machines?. Graham Seaman; b) Open Source outside the Domain of Software. Clay Shirky; c) Why Open Hardware? by Patrick McNamara.
  6. In peer production, the interests of capitalists and entrepreneurs are no longer aligned
  7. Dave Pollard on the fallacy of the Economies of Scale argument, i.e. that bigger is better.
  8. What are the specific difficulties for Open Hardware?
  9. Design for sustainability is inherently participatory
  10. Can we design our economic policies and politics for developing abundance? See Roberto Verzola on Undermining vs. Developing Abundance
  11. David A. Mellis: How Open Source Hardware differs from Open Source Software?

Case Studies

  1. On the Open Design of Tangible Goods. By Christina Raasch, Cornelius Herstatt and Kerstin Balka. R&D Management. Volume 39 Issue 4, Pages 382 - 393 Preprint version: detailed comparative case studies of 6 projects.
  2. Peer Production and Desktop Manufacturing in the Case of the Helix T Wind Turbine Project
  3. Case of a RepRap-Based, Lego-Built 3D Printing-Milling Machine

Conditions for Success

  1. What would it take to move Towards a Free Matter Economy? By Terry Hancock. Free Software Magazine, Issue 7, October 2005.
  2. Eric Hunting: Moving from free software to free production: what we need
  3. Defining Post-Industrial Design: Eric Hunting meditates and strategizes on the way forward from here to there.

Present State and Future Scenario's

  1. The Future of Making by the Institute for the Future contains a summary visualization (mini-version here of "making" trends
  2. The Importance of distributed digital production. By Lawrence J. Rhoades.
  3. Agroblogger on the state of the Open Source Appropriate Technology movement
  4. Facilitating International Development through Free / Open Source: about changing the direction of international development by giving away free designs for great and useful technologies #[3]. Vinay Gupta also offers a list of priority projects.
  5. John Robb calls for the construction of Resilient Communities
  6. Beautifully said: Adam Lindemann on the Harmonious Age
  7. Eric Hunting on Defining a Post-Industrial Style

How To

Check out the following how-to platforms:



  1. Key entries: Free Hardware Design, Open Development, Open Customization ; Open Design, Open Hardware, Open Innovation, Open Source, Open Source Product Design, Open Source Hardware
  2. See also: Citizen Product Design; Co-Creation; Co-Design ; Desktop Manufacturing ; Peer Production Entrepreneurs ; Self-organized Design Communities
  3. Typology by degree of openness: Closed Hardware; Open Interface, Open Design, Open Implementation
  4. What you need to know about the Internet of Things: Blobject ; Blogjects ; Gizmo ; Open Source Programmable GPS Devices; Open Spime; Physical Bookmarking ; Semapedia; Spime; Update tag: P2P-Objects
  5. It is increasingly easy and popular to share and swap physical goods, i.e. Freecycling‎, using Free Stores‎ and FreeSharing Network‎s. See also: Regifting and Regiving


  1. What do we need to have "economically-significant, replicable, open source physical production efforts?", i.e. true Distributive Production. Marcin Jakubowski [4] proposes a set of OSE Specifications to judge such efforts. See also his Sixteen Key Technologies for an Open Habitat.
  2. Overview of Open Hardware Licenses

Tools and Design platforms

  1. Open Source for Appropriate Technology: Instructables, Honeybee Network, Appropedia, Howtopedia, Demotech. There is also a specialized Sustainability Search Engine.
  2. The Open Source Product Design platform has a list of Open Design projects; so does Thingiverse
  3. MAKE magazine "has managed to regenerate a previously static culture of do-it-yourselfers at a feverish pace"
  4. The Village Forum focuses on how we design and build our habitat.
  5. Designing physical prototypes through Electronic Design Automation Software such as Fritzing
  6. 3D Filter: 3D Model Search Engine: trawl sites such as Cadyou, Google 3D warehouse, The 3D Studio and seven others for 3D models in a variety of formats as well as textures
  7. an open source web site under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license: in which generative design methods are used to create new forms of products with the use of rapid prototyping methods. It allows members to login, download, upload and create designs.
  8. open furniture: OF is an open source platform that exhanges and sells designs. The concept of this effort is to create a company that can be profitable while, at the same time, can keep its interest in the idea of sharing and exchanging. The platform is open to anyone interested in design and it functions based on a point system that facilitates users to download and fabricate products.
  9. SourceShop - an Open Source Platform: SourceShop is a shop of digitally fabricated designer products that can be purchased by anybody. This exchange intends to go beyond its commercial aspect by expanding knowledge towards the world of digital fabrication. The main goal of SourceShop is to share knowledge between students, participants and all interested people of digital fabrication.


  1. The P2P-Design Delicious tag monitors the topic
  2. Stephen Vermeulen has compiled a long list of Product Hacking initiatives
  3. Open Design page in Wikipedia


  1. Key companies: Bug Labs, Fab@Home, Factor E Farm, Open Moko, Ponoko
  2. Key organizations: Global Swadeshi Network, Open Design Foundation ; Open Hardware Foundation
  3. Key people: Gupta, Vinay, Hunting, Eric, Jakubowski, Marcin, Rose, Sam, Watkins, Chris



* The Bleeding Edge. Why Technology Turns Toxic in an Unequal World. By Bob Hughes. New Internationalist Books, 2016 [6]

See also:

  1. Christian Siefkes. From Exchange to Contributions: Generalizing Peer Production into the Physical World. 2007
  2. Digital Fabrication Primer. Smari McCarthy.
  3. Introduction to Open Peer-to-Peer Design 1.1. Massimo Menichinelli[[ and Collaborate. Making an Open Collaborative Design System. By Miae Kim.
  4. Open Design Now. WHY DESIGN CANNOT REMAIN EXCLUSIVE. By Bas van Abel, Lucas Evers, Roel Klaassen, Peter Troxler. Bis Publishers, 2011 [7]

Other languages:

  1. Design open source. Dalla partecipazione alla progettazione in rete Paolo Ciuccarelli (in Italian)


  1. Companies like Zazzle, Cafepress, Spreadshirt, Ponoko, Shapeways, etc. provide customers with access to custom manufacturing equipment and web-based design tools.
  2. Buying downloadable designs from young designers: Kith Kin's SomeRightsReserved


  1. Fab Labs Three and Four
  2. International Conference on Rapid Manufacturing
  3. Open Sustainability Network unconference
  4. FreedomHEC Taipei 2008: free hardware conference


  1. The Future of Making Map [8] (commentary [9])

Podcasts (Audio)

Selection from our full Podcasts Directory:

  1. Alex Lindsay on Digital Craftsmen for Development
  2. Alex Steffen on Distributed Disaster Relief and P2P Energy Networks
  3. Anil Gupta on Appropriate Technology for Agroinnovations
  4. Beth Kolko on the effect of Hackers and ProduSers on Creativity and Consumerism
  5. Brenda Dayne on Knitting as an Open Craft
  6. Bruce Sterling on the Internet of Things
  7. Chris Watkins on Changing the World through Free Content
  8. Clay Shirky on the Age of the Amateur
  9. Clayton Christensen on Open Source and Innovation in Business
  10. Craig Newmark on Customer Co-development at Craigslist
  11. David Orban and Roberto Ostinelli on Open Spime


  1. Open Source Software for Engineers

From a list of software OEM's maintained by Fab Wiki:

  1. 3D CAD: AutoDesk Inventor, SolidWorks
  2. 3D Modeling: Blender, MeshLab, Aviary makers of the online Raven vector editor, AutoDesk 3DS Max, SketchUp, PixoLogic #ZBrush
  3. Vector Editor: Open Office Draw, InkScape, sK1, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
  4. CAM & Machining Software: GCAM, MasterCAM, EMC Enhanced Machine Control

Webcasts (Video)

  1. Eric von Hippel on User Centered Innovation
  2. Delivered in Beta: testimonials on the motivation and reasons for sharing designers, by open designers, 8 minutes, well done


Long Quotes

Here are more Open Design Aphorisms

See also: Quotes on P2P-Driven and Commons-Centric Design

Daniel Christian Wahl on Salutogenic Design

Daniel Christian Wahl:


"In 2006, my doctoral research concluded that if the basic intention behind all human design was salutogenesis, we would be able to facilitate a local and global shift towards sustainability (Wahl, 2006b).

Valerie Brown lists two criteria that should guide human behaviour if we hope to avoid serious damage to the natural processes that maintain systemic health. We need to i) “consume nature’s flows while conserving the stocks (that is, live off the ‘interest’ while conserving natural capital” and ii) “increase society’s stocks (human resources, civil institutions) and limit the flow of material and energy” (Brown et al., 2005). Both are central aspects of a regenerative culture. Salutogenic design aims to facilitate the emergence of health at and across all scales of the whole. It recognizes the inextricable link between human, ecosystem and planetary health. Rather than primarily focusing on the relief of symptoms of disease or ill-health, this approach tries to promote positive health and a flourishing of the whole. In other words, the aim of salutogenic design is to support healthy individuals in healthy communities acting responsibly in healthy societies to nurture and maintain healthy ecosystem functioning as the basis for healthy bioregions and ultimately a healthy biosphere. Scale-linking, salutogenic design aims to create resilient and regenerative systems at and across all scales." (


""To regenerate the Earth and her people all our designs will have to express our interbeing with life as a planetary process. All of us are unique expressions — emergent properties if you will — of this planetary process. At the same time we are all co-creators manifesting the future potential of the present moment through how we show up and what we activate through our attention and intention today — now! It is time for an evolutionary leap, for our species to become healers rather than violators and have a regenerative rather than degenerative impact on the wider community of life and each other. We can learn from life and as life itself we can know how to meet human needs while stewarding ecosystems health and the life supporting processes of the biosphere. We need to reconnect and embody our intimacy with an animate Earth — Gaia — if we hope to chart the humble path of geo-therapy rather than running headlong into the hubristic one way street of geo-engineering. The generations alive today can no longer be spectators but have to become protagonists of unprecedented cooperation. Our deep care for all life can inform our co-creative redesign of the human presence and impact on Earth." (

Daniel Fraga: Technology is about designing subjects

"Today, technology allows us a new form of design: one that designs subjects, not objects; people, not things. By designing the information someone consumes, we can frame their opinions. By designing the interactions they have with digital devices, we can frame their thinking. This is known by not only tech giants but by military intelligence. And now, it is time that it becomes known by designers - especially those at the vanguard of dying paradigms. Our environments, our tools and even our ideas are extensions of ourselves. Our clothes extend our skin’s ability to keep our body warm, and our glasses improve our eye’s ability to see. This is simple enough. But what about language, or the internet? What does it do to us? How do they extend our humanity? More importantly: can we design that extension? In this century, algorithmically powered ontological design will radically reinvent what “human” means. It will not only be used to create “better” humans, but to redesign the very concepts of “better” itself, disrupting the values of the old world order and kickstarting a struggle for the new. Creatively terrifying designs are becoming possible."

- Daniel Fraga [10]

Marcin Jakubowski on open access to digital design

open access to digital design – perhaps in the form a global repository of shared open source designs - introduces a unique contribution to human prosperity. This contribution is the possibility that data at one location in the world can be translated immediately to a product in any other location. This means anyone equipped with flexible fabrication capacity can be a producer of just about any manufactured object. The ramifications for localization of economies are profound, and leave the access to raw material feedstocks as the only natural constraint to human prosperity.

- Marcin Jakubowski

Shared Design is essential to transform the world

"When intellectual problems become distributed, the search for solutions becomes collaborative and the research agenda is driven not by multinational shareholders but by the passions of the participants, you get not just better results, you get different results."

- Alec Steffens [11]

Linus Torvalds on Open Peer to Peer Design

"“I think the real issue about adoption of open source is that nobody can really ever “design” a complex system. That’s simply not how things work: people aren’t that smart - nobody is. And what open source allows is to not actually “design” things, but let them evolve, through lots of different pressures in the market, and having the end result just continually improve." (

"don’t EVER make the mistake that you can design something better than what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a feedback cycle. That’s giving your intelligence _much_ too much credit." (

Agroblogger on a Appropriate Technology General Public License

"Let us imagine an active online community participating in vibrant discussions and sharing of Appropriate Technology plans and experiences. Let us imagine the AT equivalent of a, a place where designers and field workers can go to download plans of greenhouses, beehives, water pumps, animal traction implements, and biodiesel equipment. And, within the legal framework of an AT General Public License (GPL), those plans can be used freely, modified, and republished under the same AT GPL. IRC channels dedicated to specific programmatic areas could serve as a dynamic forum where "newbies" can gain wisdom and insight from experienced field practitioners." (Agroblogger [12])

Karim Lakhani on Communities driving Manufacturers out of the design phase

"for any given company - there are more people outside the company that have smarts about a particular technology or a particular use situation then all the R&D engineers combined. So a community around a product category may have more smart people working on the product then the firm it self. So in the end manufacturers may end up doing what they are supposed to - manufacture - and the design activity might move to the edge and into the community." (

Kevin Kelly and Terry Hancock on nearly-free material production

"Material industries are finding that the costs of duplication near zero, so they too will behave like digital copies. Maps just crossed that threshold. Genetics is about to. Gadgets and small appliances (like cell phones) are sliding that way. Pharmaceuticals are already there, but they don't want anyone to know. It costs nothing to make a pill." (

Both the capital and marginal cost of making products has trended consistently and rapidly down as manufacturing tools become both cheaper and more versatile, so that the capital cost of an object is increasingly not in the capital equipment required to manufacture it, but in the effort required to design it.

- Terry Hancock [13]

Vinay Gupta on Open Source Design for Development

"An open library of designs for refrigerators, lighting, heating, cooling, motors, and other systems will encourage manufacturers, particularly in the developing world, to leapfrog directly to the most sustainable technologies, which are much cheaper in the long run. Manufacturers will be encouraged to use the efficient designs because they are free, while inefficient designs still have to be paid for. The library could also include green chemistry and biological solutions to industry challenges, for example enzymatic reactions that could be used in place of energy, and chemical-intensive processes or nontoxic paint pigments for cars and buildings. This library should be free of all intellectual property restrictions and open for use by any manufacturer, in any nation, without charge." (

Steve Bosserman outlines what is most appropriate for local distributed manufacturing

"strong candidates for a locally distributed manufacturing approach include ANYTHING that is agriculturally- based like food, feed, fiber, and biofuel production, much of housing and building construction including the manufacturing of inputs used in that industry, localized electric power generation using non-bio sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, and production / manufacturing of materials, components, and assemblies that use locally sourced raw materials and draw upon open-source, relatively easy to learn, appropriate technologies that can be applied in a wide range of situations-- not just a single product."

Marcin Jakubowski on Neosubsistence

"Neosubsistence is the term we apply to a lifestyle where people produce tangible (physical) wealth, as opposed to dealing with information in the information economy. We are talking about basics: even though we live in the information economy, we cannot deny the reality that human prosperity is founded on the provision of physical needs upon which the meeting of all higher needs is predicated. Neosubsistence is related to the information economy in that the information economy is a foundation for neosubsistence"

John Thackara on the importance of design for sustainability

"Eighty per cent of the environmental impact of today's products, services and infrastructures is determined at the design stage. Design decisions shape the processes behind the products we use, the materials and energy required to make them, the ways we operate them and what happens to them when we no longer need them." (

Eric von Hippel on Manufacturing around User Innovation Communities

"Threadless has tapped into a fundamental economic shift, a movement away from passive consumerism. One day in the not-too-distant future citizen inventors using computer design programs and three-dimensional printers will exchange physical prototypes in much the same way Nickell and cohorts played Photoshop tennis.

Eventually, Threadless-like communities could form around industries as diverse as semiconductors, auto parts, and toys. Threadless is one of the first firms to systematically mine a community for designs, but everything is moving in this direction.

He foresees research labs and product-design divisions at manufacturing companies being outstripped by an "innovation commons" made up of tinkerers, hackers, and other devout customers freely sharing their ideas. The companies that win will be the ones that listen." (quotes and paraphrased by Inc. [14])

Frank Piller on User Manufacturing

"User manufacturing is enabled by three main technologies: (1) Easy-to-operate design software that allows users to transfer their ideas into a design. (2) Design repositories where users upload, search, and share designs with other users. This allows a community of loosely connected users to develop a large range of applications. (3) Easy-to-access flexible manufacturing technology. New rapid manufacturing technologies ("fabbing") finally deliver the dream of translating any 3-D data files into physical products -- even in you living room. Combining this technology with recent web technologies can open a radical new way to provide custom products along the entire "long tail" of demand.

User manufacturing builds on the notion that users are not just able to configure a good within the given solution space (mass customization), but also to develop such a solution space by their own and utilize it by producing custom products. As a result, customers are becoming not only co-designers, but also manufacturers, using an infrastructure provided by some specialized companies." (

Jeff Bezos on User-Manufacturing Everything

"Before long, “user-generated content” won’t refer only to media, but to just about anything: user-generated jeans, user-generated sports cars, user-generated breakfast meals. This is because setting up a company that designs, makes and globally sells physical products could become almost as easy as starting a blog - and the repercussions would be earthshaking. " (

Flexible Manufacturing and the Maker Movement

"Two future forces, one mostly social, one mostly technological, are intersecting to transform how goods, services, and experiences— the “stuff” of our world—will be designed, manufactured, and distributed over the next decade. An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack, and customize the products they buy. And what they can’t purchase, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralized to lightweight and ad hoc. These trends sit atop a platform of grassroots economics—new market structures developing online that embody a shift from stores and sales to communities and connections." (

Short Citations

The reality for advanced design today is dominated by three ideas: distributed, plural, collaborative. It is no longer about one designer, one client, one solution, one place.

- Bruce Mau (cited in Getting Results from Crowds, p. 171)

What can be digitized will be shared

- Sheen S. Levine [15]

In the 21st century economy, it isn't factories and it isn't people that make things. It's communities.

- Eben Moglen [16] makes less and less sense to be thinking in terms of "end-users" and to be creating knowledge-jukeboxes for them. It makes more and more sense to be designing for "end-makers"

- Willard McCarty [17]

An increasing number of physical activities are becoming so data-centric that the physical aspects are simply executional steps at the end of a chain of digital manipulation.

- Clay Shirky [http://finance.]

When people talked about innovation in the '90s, they really meant technology. When people talk about innovation in this decade, they really mean design.

- (

As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of ‘do it yourself’.

- Marshall McLuhan [18]


Marvin Brown on Civic Design:

"When people say, ”We have seen the problem and the problem is us,” they deceive themselves. We are not the problem. The problem is one of design. Our current design of how we live together in unjust and unsustainable, and it is still controlled by commercial conversations without any moral foundation. Those who control financial markets are sovereign. If we expand and protect civic conversations we may, in time, participate in the solution—an economy based on civic norms making provisions for this and future generations." (

Design by the People, for the People

"We know it will only get better but in the meantime the open source/DIY/hacking wave has already achieved a major success, that of cementing the centrality of the common good. The process begins with a community, a group whose homogeneity is no longer described by historical definers of age, gender, race, class, region or religion but rather by a shared interest or passion and ends in another, only to begin again through the way the product is used, adapted, disposed of and maybe even celebrated in its afterlife. In the past, reaching the "consumer" with a finished product meant reaching the terminus of the design process. But that was the time, to paraphrase Ilse Crawford ... when we, designers, used to design for them, consumers. Those rancid old times have gone. We now design for us, people with people for people." [19]

- Paola Antonelli

See Also


This category has only the following subcategory.

Pages in category "Design"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 990 total.

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