21 – Open Design


In window 4 we wrote about Open Source Hardware and today about Open Design. Is there a difference? No, not really. Both terms coexist and mean mostly the same.

When you look at Wikipedia’s „Open Design“ article you’ll find a lot of examples we already discussed as open source hardware or that are even named „open source hardware“.

I personally always just say „hardware“ and mean both things: „design“ and „hardware“. So a spoon, a skirt, a vase, a piece of paper, my lap-top – for me they are all just hardware.

But sometimes a little difference can be found when it comes to licensing. Some „open design“ projects use „non-commercial“ or even „no derivatives“ licenses. This does of course not count as open source! Because open source licenses cannot discriminate any uses. And commercial use and modifications are valid uses! But this projects still may count as „open design“, because this movement used these licenses sometimes from day one – Ronen Kadushin – the person who coined „Open Design“ in 2004 – for example uses these licenses for his designs. And as long as this movement has no clear and agreed upon definition, this is probably OK.

However, most Open Design projects I come across use open source licenses! Here are some examples:

Open Structures

os pic

Open Structures is still my favorite project that started as „open design“. „Open Structures explores the possibility of a modular construction model where everyone designs for everyone on the basis of one shared geometrical grid.“ And I really can’t wait, till someone takes all the work done so far and transforms this into a real open hardware/open design business. 



Inspired and motivated by Open Structures and the OSCEdays I recently started a series of objects with my own company „Mifactori“. Three iterations of the open source and circular design Hiebo lamp have been developed so far, and the process goes on. The image above shows a „Hiebo Hack“ from a Hiebo hacking workshop.

Familie Binder


Familie Binder is a growing family of open design furniture developed by Austrian designers. I have to say, that sometimes Austria seems like the dream country for Openness, since a lot of interesting actors and projects are located here. We already mentioned some of them in our calendar like the Open Source Camera Axiom or Make-O-Matic. And this is just the top of a very, very long list.

Open Design Now – a 100% open book!


If you want to read more about Open Design: In 2011 the Book Open Design Now was published and is now completely and openly available online. Have fun.

Author of this window: Lars Zimmermann