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Open Design Definition workshop at OKFestival 2014 in Berlin

- August 5, 2014 in Definition, Event, Featured

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

At the recent OKFestival in Berlin, where over 1,000 open-everything enthusiasts and experts gathered for 3 days in the charming Kulturbrauerei, a workshop was held by the Open Design & Hardware Working Group to expand the Open Design Definition that had been booted in the months leading up to the festival. The idea with the workshop was to take a major step towards finalizing a first version for publication (v1.0) and also involve more people in the process.

In the rather compact 1-hour session we were joined by approximately 25 people, who all contributed valuable inputs throughout the process lead by Peter Troxler with support from Sanna Martilla and Christian Villum (Massimo Menichinelli, who initiated the idea to have a workshop at OKFestival unfortunately could not make it).

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

First step was to develop an Open Definition checklist inspired by the Open Source Hardware Association’s Quick Reference Guide. Participants went into small groups to brainstorm important criteria for the checklist and these criteria (on post-it notes) were then placed on a big wall and organized into clusters.

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

Open Design Definition Workshop @ OKFestival 2014 [Part 1] from Christian Villum on Vimeo.

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

The result of this was compared with what was already in the draft of the Open Design Definition and afterwards voted on by placing dots in a yes/no column, followed by a short reflection on the reasoning.

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

Photo by autofunk78, CC-BY-SA

Lastly, participants divided into three groups to discuss items to include as “must” criteria and items to include as “may” criteria — again inspired by OHSWA work.

Open Design Definition Workshop @ OKFestival 2014 [Part 2] from Christian Villum on Vimeo.

Open Design Definition Workshop @ OKFestival 2014 [Part 3] from Christian Villum on Vimeo.

The notes from each of these phases in the workshop can be seen in this etherpad [Note: These will be migrated to the OKFestival wiki soon]. They will now be transformed into tasks and added to the Open Design Definition github repo and subsequently the work to amend them will commence.

Further discussion is encouraged! Did we leave out something important? Is there something in the notes that you want to comment on? Feel free to get in touch on the working group discussion list. Also, if you would like to see more photo, check out this gallery.


It’s Hardware Freedom Day on Saturday – join the fun!

- March 13, 2014 in Event, Featured


On Saturday, March 15 2014, it is Hardware Freedom Day – a yearly celebration of Open Hardware!

Every year since 2004 hundreds of teams have been celebrating Software Freedom Day, often showcasing Open Hardware in the process. At the Digital Freedom Foundation (formerly known as SFI) in 2012 they thought it was about time to have a special day just for Open Hardware. So for its second year please get involved to help celebrate open hardware as part of this global event.

What is open hardware?

SparkFun Electronics has created a very nice explanatory video for the Open Source Hardware Association which you can view here:

How can you contribute?

Support Hardware Freedom Day. You or your organization believes hardware should be hackable and/or is deeply involved in Open Hardware. You believe that Hardware Freedom Day needs traction and are willing to help us with the promotional efforts by putting one of our web banners and countdown on your website.

Organize Hardware Freedom Day. You love to hack all the gadgets you have a chance to put your hand on and/or are a member of a hackerspace? The time has come to join all the other hackerspaces in the world and celebrate Hardware Freedom Day. We have drafted a guide to get you started, simply register your event and don’t hesitate to join our mailing list and exchange ideas with others.

Attend Hardware Freedom Day. You’ve heard about Open Hardware and would love to discover more, be able to ask questions and see some live action? You already have some hackable stuff and would like to meet with like-minded people in your neighbourhood? Then check out the events map and find a location in your area celebrating Hardware Freedom Day. If you cannot find one in your neighborhood, then join virtually on IRC.

Learn more

Read more about Hardware Freedom Day and the movement on the website – and join the mailing list. Also let us know what you’ll be doing on Hardware Freedom Day – in the comments below or on the Open Design & Hardware discussion list.

Introducing our project for Burning Man 2014: The Tree of Knowledge

- March 7, 2014 in Featured, Projects


Members of the Open Design & Hardware Working Group have been working these last few months on putting together a project proposal for the magnificent Burning Man festival which takes place every year in August in the desolate Black Rock Desert in Nevada, United States. The result is a proposal to build the Tree of Knowledge.

The Tree of Knowledge project is based on a global, cross-team collaboration between artists, makers, academics and builders at Harvard University, Creative Commons, the Open Design + Hardware Network at the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Tech Collaborative. Together, we are the Tribe. We come from different backgrounds, live all across the world – from Copenhagen to Vancouver – we each have different passions and opinions, yet we all agree on a common ground: Knowledge is magic – and open knowledge is the backbone of the Tree of Knowledge.

On the Playa of the Black Rock Desert…

Just off the edge of the Playa, when the sun sets and the sky grows dark, a magical path appears: twin lines of glowing markers winding into the distance. Curious travellers who reach the end discover an oasis.  And in the middle of the oasis, a magical tree: from its branches hang wondrous glowing fruit, large and small ornaments filled with bioluminescent fluid. This is the Tree of Knowledge.

The tree stands in the middle of this mystical oasis, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of curiosity, learning and sharing. Chill– almost ambient– music plays; this is a peaceful oasis. The site is both a destination,  a place where travelers come in their quest for meditation and wonder; and also a source, a place from which knowledge spreads, illuminating the desert of Black Rock City. From the moment the sun sets, travelers will be drawn to the Tree of Knowledge by its mystical glow on the distant horizon. As they get closer, they can marvel at the wonder of its bioluminescent fruit. It is a peaceful oasis, far from the chaotic setting of the Silk Road.


The Tribe of Light

Once arrived, travellers will have their first encounter with a strange tribe, natives of the oasis, caretakers of the tree, their faces and bodies elaborately painted with colorful glow-in-the-dark paints. The Tribe of Light. Curious travelers will ask, “What is all this?” And to them we will say it is the Tree of Knowledge. We will educate through a variety of  rites of passage and tell them about the magic of bioluminescence, the value of shared knowledge, and other universal truths. We will encourage them to take some of the fruit — some of the light– away with them on the rest of their journey, to illuminate their path and share the open knowledge it symbolizes with their friends.


Building the tree and growing the organisms

The Tree itself — the trunk and branches– is a dead tree, about 8 meters (~26 feet) high, transported to the site for this project.  Only upon close inspection can a visitor tell that it was originally cut into sections, and subsequently reassembled on site. Once the tree stands strong, the fruits are put on the branches from top to bottom – all transparent containers of bioluminescent micro organisms, slurping in the abundant energy from the sun – waiting for dusk to arrive and their glow to initiate.


The lower-hanging fruit, which the curious travelers will be encouraged to pick, are transparent spheres filled with bioluminescent organisms in a saltwater solution.  These are attached to the tree by leather strings; when untied from the tree, these enable the fruit to be worn as necklaces and bracelets– magic amulets to take home. In this this way, the project illustrates– manifests– the ways in which knowledge spreads. The overall effect is of an otherworldly magic; the goal is to induce a sense of wonder.

Joining the Tribe and spreading the Knowledge

Visitors willing to go through a short training course (about 30 minutes) will be given the opportunity to be turned into ‘evangelists’, apprentice wizards: Upon completion of this training, in a special ritual, we will apply luminescent paint to their body so that they will be easily recognizable as part of the Tribe. These luminous evangelists will then be sent out of the Oasis and back to the chaos beyond, with a kit (a set of empty amulets and a flask of bioluminescent organism) and a mission: they will be charged with enlightening fellow travelers, sharing light and knowledge.

How to learn more – and get involved

To learn more about the Tree of Knowledge project, the Tribe of Light and everything else – visit the project site. We’ll be putting up photos and videos of the work as we move forward. Also, make sure to follow OD&H Working Group on Twitter for brief shoot-from-the-hip updates.

You can also join the project! Get in touch on to become part of the building team or contribute otherwise. Also, we plan to run a Kickstarter campaign and would love for anyone with experience in that field (or willingness to learn) to get in touch to lend a hand. The project is open, so feel free to get on board.

Fabfuse 2013 on Grassroots Knowledge Sharing

- July 11, 2013 in Event, Featured

Last summer over 50 people from across the globe gathered at the FabLab Amersfoort in the Netherlands for the first Grassroots FabLab conference, called FABFUSE.
They discussed and researched ways for communities to set up an organize local workplaces like FabLabs, without large financial resources or governmental backing. Attendees came from Fablabs, Hackerspaces, Transition towns and many other communities and backgrounds.

This summer, 19th till 21st of July, the follow up of this conference takes place: FABFUSE 2013. Its main focus is on ‘Grassroots Knowledge Sharing.’ FABFUSE acknowledges that often little of the valuable knowledge available in local labs and workspaces is being shared or made accessible. The 2013 conference aims to showcase, discuss and develop ways for these local hubs to connect with others and share their information.


As the global ecosystem of fab labs, hackerspaces, public laboratories and other community driven workshops grows, so does the need for effective exchange of knowledge between these peer knowledge hubs. Can we cook up a grassroots implementation of peer reviewed knowledge? Or should we? Are existing platforms (journals, conferences) open to p2p communities? What great libre (online) tools are out there? Can we help the developers of potentially great tools in making the next step?
In other words: How can grassroots communities exchange knowledge?

The conference will be loosely organized in 3 topic streams:
1. Open toolchains for creation, collaboration & communication: which open tools serve the grassroots community, which tools can we help become better, which tools do we miss altogether?
2. knowledge sharing: how can we free the knowledge present in many p2p hubs?
3. community building: how do distributed communities develop, live and thrive?

The conference itself is also organized as a grassroots event, where each visitor is also co-organizer or a participant in lectures, workshops and demonstrations. More info at

Make Things Do Stuff to Mobilise 100,000 Young Makers Across UK

- June 6, 2013 in Event, Featured, Projects


Creative Web Literacy is an increasingly important issue. I’ve written about it. Many others have written about it. But what are we all doing about it?

One of the campaigns I’m proud to be involved with here in London is Make Things Do Stuff, a UK-wide network of like-minded organisations including Freeformers, Technology Will Save Us, Mozilla, NESTA and the Nominet Trust who are committed to mobilize the next generation to create the many technologies that surround us, not just consume them.


The goal? To get 100,000 young people learning new digital skills and feeling like makers by the end of the summer. For the well-publicized launch event last week, a buzzing patchwork of young people in sneakers, old people in suits and geeks with machines gathered at the Roundhouse in Camden, and it seemed as if everyone from the excellent National Geographic Kids magazine to WIRED to UK Chancellor George Osborne was there to check it all out.

While the suits (as the kids fondly called them throughout the day) headed upstairs to the press room, EPIK‘s Dorine Flies and I took over some tables to share the open source Webmaker toolset between some singing kiwi fruits and DIY synth. As we set up Popcorn Maker, I yelled out the audacious claim that we’d help the 30 kids gathered to make their own music videos in under 10 minutes. I sat back, expecting no one to join us.

make things do stuff

Surprisingly, the table was full within minutes. The kids were ridiculously good at building creative projects and sharing their skills, some getting so stuck in to the hacking and remixing process that they lost all perception of the outside world, even ignoring the increasingly shrill synth frequencies as other kids experimented with the Technology Will Save Us crew next door.

“And what brought you here today?” Osborne asked a quiet bespeckeled teenager wearing a red soccer jersey. The reply was ponderous. “I don’t really know,” he finally answered, intent on the screen as it played a preview of his newly remixed video. “I guess I was just bored, and wanted to make something cool.”

In the end, that’s really what this sort of initiative is all about.

In the UK and want to be a part of the movement? Say hi on the Make Things Do Stuff website and Twitter – now’s a great time to get involved.

Open Design, Year One: Hardware, Ideas and Community

- May 2, 2013 in Featured, Projects

It’s been a great first year for our Open Design network – we hit the 100 mark on our discussion list, delivered a keynote lecture at LibreGraphics, launched v0.1 of the Open Design Definition, planned a new design hardware challenge in France and helped run the world’s first Open Knowledge Festival in Finland. We even got flamed by Bruce Sterling in WIRED magazine (good times!). Most importantly, the community has some great initiatives planned for the summer. Here are updates and details on how to get involved.

On the Hardware side,

After a wonderful week of hacking, building new things and collaborating across design paradigms at our first-ever Open Hardware, Design and Fabbing topic stream at the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki, we are now happy to announce the launch of the first Public Domain Remix this summer, a challenge run with the Open Knowledge Foundation France and Wikimedia France aimed at encouraging people to remix public domain works in a creative way that promotes the use and re-use of public archive materials. The challenge has both an interdisciplinary and transmedial approach: rather than following the same medium, people are encouraged to shift from one medium to the other. The PDRemix starts at OuiShare Fest in Paris this weekend, so stay tuned for details!

On the Tools side,

A few community members have also begun an interesting conversation on Mozilla’s first-ever #TeachTheWeb MOOC [Massively Open Online Course] by setting up the first G+ Community for designers, creatives and makers who want to build inspirational outputs through creative [and unexpected!] uses of the free, Open Source Webmaker toolset. We welcome your participation – please join here. We look forward to the many fruitful discussions ahead!

On the Definition side,

After a very lively post-talk debate at my Seven Faces of Open Design keynote at LibreGraphics conference which happened at MediaLab Prado last month in Madrid, workshops around the world at FutureEverything in Manchester, the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki and FREE CITY in Tallinn, and a great deal of debating on the discussion list accompanied by a lot of GitHub additions, we have now launched a tentative v.01 of the revamped Open Design Definition! This Definition is a community-driven attempt to unite different understandings of this field across professional paradigms. We now intend to launch into an investigation of the many questions that continue to allude us, such as what are the “source files” of a design project? We’d love for you to get involved here.

On the Community side,

In its next stage, we now focus on fostering the regional richness of this talented global group. We’d like to invite each of you to showcase your participation through three new ideas to be launched this year:

1) We will soon be offering the option for you to publicly feature your name, contact info and affiliation for us to list on our new ‘Members’ page. We’ll set up a sign up sheet this month.

2) We will also soon offer all members the opportunity to become featured writers on the Open Design Blog. This is a good chance to showcase your work to an international audience of design practitioners and get valuable feedback. Stay tuned for details.

3) Most importantly, this year we will focus on seeding local installments of the Open Design collaborative around the world, in cities and nations with a regional focus and in-person meetings. More details about this later, but we’re quite excited about the groups who have asked to pioneer this option.

Lastly, a Thank You

It’s been an amazing first year for this fledgling community – we’ve had the honour of meeting many of you in-person, debating with you and learning about the inspiring Open Design projects you have helped start in your nations – and we already look forward to seeing what comes next. Massive thanks to each of you who helped all of it get started – you’ve been great. Here’s to another creative, artistic and interesting year!

Image from Ohanda’s RE*Campaign thanks to ds on Flickr.

The First Draft of the Open Design Definition

- March 8, 2013 in Definition, Featured

After a lot of discussion and examinations of existing Open definitions, I’ve finally published the first draft of the Open Design Definition. There is very little in it at the moment, but a simple structure of the document that should work for discussing the definition further. You can always participate in its development by:

  1. subscribing to our mailing list
  2. creating an user in GitHub with the free open source plan and sending to the mailing list your username (so that we can add you to the group on GitHub)
  3. just leaving a comment on this post (I will then bring your ideas to the main discussion)

If you are not familiar with Git and GitHub don’t worry, just send e-mails with your ideas to the mailing list and I will take care of the work on GitHub.
Here’s the first draft then:

The Open Design Definition v. 0.1


This document is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)


This document is the result of the collaborative discussion that has been taking place in the Open Design Working Group of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Please join the conversation about the definition on the Open Design Definition repository and on the Open Design Working Group mailing list (past archives are available here)

This document represents a shared agreement about the definition of Open Design, and should not be understood as a license for Design content. The purpose of this document is to foster discussion, collaboration and community building around the concept and the practice of Open Design.

Open Source and Open Content regarding Open Design

Here we should develop our understanding of Open Source / Open Content of Open Design. Should be short and clarify the framework.

If we feel that we need to clarify something about Freedom vs. Openness it should be done here

Branches of Open Design

Here we should discuss all the kinds of Design (Product Design, Graphic Design) that can be Open Design and what is the source code for them and the binary code

The Open Data of Open Design

Here we should discuss the issue of all the knowledge and related data for Open Design projects. For example: supply chain, material processes, how to repair / reproduce / manufacture a project, the carbon footprint of the manufacturing and distribution processes and so on

Hacking Open Design: Redesign

Here we should clarify wether redesigning closed design projects can make them open

The process of Open Design

Here we should discuss if there’s anything more that we can add about the processes around the development of Open Design projects

 Open Design and necessary software

Here we should discuss the relationship between Open Design and the necessary software for opening / designing / making it real

Open Design and Intellectual Property

Here we should clarify the relationships between different branches and entities for Design projects and the intellectual property laws developed for them. It should not be a license but should be a starting point for clarifying any issue with licenses or patenting

We look forward to continuing the discussions!

Featured image thanks to ‘d2s’ on Flickr here.

Working on the Open Design Definition

- February 26, 2013 in Definition, Featured

After few months of pause, it is finally time to give an update about the development of the Open Design Definition, a project I’ve started while working at Aalto Media Factory (and co-organizing the Open Knowledge Festival) together with many others from this group.

01. The Open Design Definition workshop at Open Knowledge Festival

During the Open Knowledge Festival I also found the time for a workshop about the Open Design Definition, and it worked really well: the room was full and we started opening many issues on the GitHub repository of the definition. The discussion has improved a lot after that moment. Here on Slideshare you can find my presentation that resumes the concept and the work behind the Open Design Definition.

02. Further developing the discussion on the definition

I will now try to resume the main questions that have surfaced in the mailing list, during the workshop and on GitHub. These are the main questions that we have to answer in order to further proceed with the collaborative development of the Open Design Definition.

  • Are we focusing only on Product Design (i.e. something physical, and that may be 3D printed) or are we talking about any kind of design? Personally I’m trying to having a discussion on all the fields of design, since there are already many different cases of Open Source in Design in many fields (see the presentation above), but of course this means that we have to describe a generic enough definition of Design, or a definition that makes references to the different Design fields.
  • Shall we start from what Intellectual Property (IP) laws consider Design, or from what designers consider Design? This choice would lead to two very different definitions, so we have to decide this together: starting from the IP laws viewpoint, it will be easier to define licenses and IP strategies; starting from designers’ viewpoint will make the definition easier to be understood by the Design community at large
  • And, related to this, shall we leave the discussion about licenses out, or shall we include something in the definition?
  • What about the “source files” of a design project? Shall we consider, in the definition, to ask about publishing also the source files (i.e. vector drawing and not only the exported picture, CAD files and not only the rendering pictures)
  • Shall we clarify and distinguish about the definition being about Openness and/or Freedom? Or shall we include both in the definition?
  • Shall start preparing a draft of a definition, in order to start the discussion to be more focused? From which existing definition should we start?

03. Working in the Open Design Working Group

I then mined the interaction on GitHub (with these open source scripts), in order to see how the discussion and work on the GitHub repository is going on. Here you can find the network of the interactions: as you can see, most of the work has been done by me, only two people (in green) have committed, and many users are not even participating in the issues publishing or commenting. We should find a way to get them more involved on the GitHub repository.

Read the rest of this entry →

Institute of Making Announces London Opening — But How Open?

- January 25, 2013 in Design Principles, Event, Featured

Makers at the Aalto FABLab in Helsinki. Photo thanks to Henrico.

A bit of good news for UK-based designers and hardware enthusiasts interested in making, building and experimenting — the Institute of Making is finally holding its Grand Public Opening on Saturday 16 March from 1pm onwards in London.

As someone who has been in London a few years, I’ve often wished there was a stronger makerspace/FABlab community in this city (London Hackspace and the Goodlife Centre aside). I’m excited about the potentiality of a centre that looks to combine academic and community energies to encourage participants to “engage in the craft, design, technology, art and engineering of making through public events and member access”. My needs are modest — I’d like a community space where I can set up some of my Arduinos, work with laser cutters and meet other designers interested in building new things using interesting materials. But will this be the place?

We’ve heard whisperings about the Institute of Making since 2005 (when its Materials Library got started for the use of the UCL Engineering Faculty), but it wasn’t until this year that the Institute decided to host a makerspace as well and position itself as a public-facing centre, a “multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world: from makers of molecules to makers of buildings, synthetic skin to spacecraft, soup to clothes, furniture to cities.”

As the makerspace at the Institute of Making opens its doors, we are very interested in how “open” this space will be, especially given its location in the centre of a university campus.

We’ll be especially interested to find out whether the Institute’s Make Space will adopt open principles regarding designs and fabrications, especially with a Flickr account that applies an “all rights reserved” license to its photos. We hope this will not be the case for other products coming out of the Institute. We also wonder whether it be a requirement that Make Space members are also students or faculty at UCL. Will makers and hackers from across interdisciplinary (and professional) paradigms be as fully welcome as the website has proclaimed?

We have already seen many positive examples of this correlation working well in other nations (many of these are spaces that collaborators of our Open Design group are involved with, such as Finland’s first FABlab at Aalto University Media Factory, which from its onset has prioritised making its equipment open to “everyone, not just students” and using Open Design standards). How will this sort of collaborative effort work in the London environment?

Further details about the opening and future events of the Institute of Making can be found on its mailing list. If you’re in London, we’ll see you there!

This is an OPEN DESIGN post. To get involved with our international working group or to write a guest blog post for us, say hello on our discussion list.

Open Design Definition at FAB*, Future Everything (Manchester)

- June 25, 2012 in Definition, Featured

Open Design Working Group at Future Everything

This post is a slightly edited version of a message sent to our discusssion list here, which is why it addresses the participants of this working group! Interested in getting involved? Join us!

A quick recap of the last workhsop for the Open Design definition we did at Fab* @ Future Everything, Manchester (UK).
We had a great discussion in a very nice place, Victoria Baths, but unfortunately the internet connection wasn’t working, so we could not start to work on the repository with the participants. The discussion was very good and I’ve changed a bit the presentation to include few more replies to some questions raised during the workshop. You can find the presentation on Slideshare here.

One issue emerged from the discussion: we should clarify further that we are working on a definition now, not on a license!
A definition is not a legal tool like a license, it is a shared document that tries to define what is Open Design, hopefully including all the different possible types of Open Design, all the perspectives, the critical point, and what can be achieved with it and how it can be improved and further promoted and adopted. It is, basically, the result of a collaborative discussion, and it is a community standard, not a legal standard like a license.

About GitHub:the discussion has started on our repository there, and you can already see some issues opened (and closed):

Don’t forget to send an e-mail to the discussion list of this working group writing your username to get started, so that we can add you to the organization group on GitHub and we can work together on the repository!
As you can see, at the moment there are already 20 members:

About Git, here are few more resources about using it:

and more news about how the use of GitHub is spreading: