Open Design Movement

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Loose movement of varied initiatives which attempt to apply Open Design practices in the sphere of physical production.

"The open design movement currently unites two trends. On the one hand, people apply their skills and time to projects for the common good, perhaps where funding or commercial interest is lacking, for developing countries or to help to spread ecological or cheaper technologies. At the other end of the scale, open design may provide a framework for developing very advanced projects and technologies that might be beyond the resource of any one company or country and involve people who, without the copyleft mechanism, might not otherwise collaborate." (


"The principles of open design are derived from the Free Software and Open Source movements. In 1997 Eric S. Raymond, Tim O'Reilly and Larry Augustin established "Open Source" as an alternative expression to "Free Software," and in 1997 Bruce Perens published the Open Source Definition. 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 University of Delft proposed on his “Open Design Circuits” website the creation of a hardware design community in the spirit of free software." (



  • Appropedia and Village Earth's Appropriate Technology Wiki Project are wiki projects focused on the development of a database of appropriate technologies and related areas.
  • Architecture for Humanity is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings design services to communities in need. They provide innovative, sustainable and collaborative design where resources and expertise are scarce. In addition to responding to recent natural disasters and systemic issues they are working with a number of high tech companies, including Sun Microsystems, AMD and Creative Commons to develop the Open Architecture Network to allow for online collaborative design and project implementation. A beta version of this network launches March 8, 2007 at the annual TED conference.
  • Designbreak – a nonprofit organization with an elegant development interface including a system for displaying CAD files in context. Designbreak purports to actively seek out or fund the manufacture of designs that have an application for the social good. Users may apply for both open design and research grants under this organization; paid employment is available where appropriate to leaders of funded projects.
  • Instructables is a website where people can share how they construct something in a step-by-step format. It was started by the MIT spin-off 'Squid Labs' originally as a quick and easy way to document and collaborate on their many projects, but is now open for everyone to use and is growing fast. Full of fun, interesting and useful things to make.
  • O.Design - open source Italian Design community
  • Open Design - the website of the Open Design Foundation
  • Open Peer-to-Peer Design - a website dedicated to the relationships between Design, Open Source and Complexity. More precisely, it's about how to face complex problems as sustainability using design as a tool to enable Open and Peer-to-Peer self-organizing communities.
  • Society for Sustainable Mobility is implementing a 3-part solutions to the environmental problem caused by modern transportation. One of the key elements is the Open Design Infrastructure that support Open Design in a mass-market automotive environment. The Open Design Infrastrucutre includes the licensing structure and an open PDM/PLM system. The licensing scheme, however, indirectly prohibits the intellectual properties from uses other than for improving environmental sustainability.
  • ThinkCycle is perhaps the oldest successful open design organization. ThinkCycle has a small, active community of participants. Several ThinkCycle projects have won development and innovation awards. Features limited message board type collaboration. The primary focus of Thinkcycle is on challenges among underserved communities and the environment.
  • The Concentrated Solar Power Open Source Initiative (CSPOSI) - "Low cost solar energy through open source design". Umbrella website for multiple projects.

More Information

Open Design