In The Air _DIT- Do it together

13th August 2012

Design is undergoing a revolution. What started as the Do It Yourself movement is being taken to the next level. In the age of Flickr, Blogger, YouTube and Twitter, user-generated content has led to a new online culture created by the masses. Taking inspiration from the way sharing and piracy revolutionized the music industry, the design industry is following suit. Creative Commons licenses, open-source software, 3D printers and social networks are embracing a new sense of community, in which ideas are shared and modified to construct almost anything. Crowdsourcing of blueprints and tools is opening a bottom-up approach to design, creating endless possibilities for entirely new custom designed and made products. Privately made, digitally distributed creations are embracing a new collaborative attitude towards authorship, encouraging innovation in unforeseen ways. We are entering into a new age defined by co-creation and openness in a world of ‘global public goods’. Companies that embrace ‘open’ design principles rather than ownership will benefit from the new opportunities for innovation as we move into a decade that will be underpinned by DIT - Do it Together.

Design and eCommerce platforms such as Thingiverse, Ponoko(Personal Factory™) and Shapeways are encouraging a community of new digital craftsmen who can upload, sell and share their design blueprints online. Users can create bespoke products manufactured locally on demand and customized for the individual, with less waste of material and a lower carbon footprint. With companies such as MakerBot or BotMill 3D printing technology is increasingly available to the masses, leading to a new industrial revolution in the digital age. Open-source software such as Google SketchUp is making 3D modeling easy and accessible, allowing anyone to create complex digital designs.

The open-source revolution is putting product design in the hands of consumers. A number of initiatives push physical making culture, creating a community production space. Berlin-based Open Design City (ODC) is a workshop in which citizens willing to share ideas and collaborate share a workspace, tools, and skills for building things and experiences. Open Design City encourages a “parallel process” of work to do away with egos and promote a sense of play. Entirely dedicated to open source and co-creation, the MakerLab was a series of open design workshops during the DMY Design Festival 2011 in Berlin. Serving as a public experimentation space for accessing new technologies and exchanging concepts, the Lab is the first large maker platform in Germany. Using cutting-edge technologies and materials, visitors could learn how to grow medicinal mushrooms, access and visualize open data or engage with open hardware.

Developed by EDUfashion, a two-year project for the development of a collaborative fashion platform, Openwear is a concept based on shared knowledge and open source resources, empowering collaborative creation. In Openwear’s online space, everyone is invited to create their own web space and personal profile. The resulting community is sharing tools, skills and services, building a collaborative open-source fashion brand, owned by the community itself. The community released its first fashion collection called “FORWARD to BASICS”, co-created by designers and crafters from different countries of Europe. USEABRAND is a fashion concept store by Moritz Beier and Anna Rihl, where novice designers can upload hand-drawn sketches to the store's website. The Useabrand community then votes the designs on and the winning piece is manufactured and sold in the store, with part of the profits going to the designer.

Taking design to the digital realm is opening up possibilities for innovative business models. During the Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2011, Droog presented furniture and accessories designed for download, including tables, cupboards, desks, side tables, shelves, couches and 3D printed electrical outlets, flowers and charms. Digital design tools that allow ordinary computer users to easily create blueprints for local production in various materials. A new online open-source platform, featuring products by various brands alongside Droog, will be launched later this year. KithKin - SomeRightsReserved is a marketplace selling digital blueprints to a range of different products and objects. The download shop offers a range of products from furniture to prints, from independent music and film to font designs. Some downloads, like music and films can be used straight away, others can to be downloaded and produced at a local manufacturer.
Open Design Now is a book launched at the DMY International Design Festival Berlin 2011. It is available for sale, but all content will be opened up for free under a Creative Commons license online during the coming months.

Conceived at the Institute without Boundaries, the OpenStructures (OS) is a research project on “open modularity” by Brussels designer Thomas Lomée. It explores a modular construction model where everybody designs for everybody on the basis of one shared geometrical grid. The ongoing experiment invites everybody to contribute compatible parts, components and structures to the collaborative construction system. These digital constructions are no longer invented and designed by one individual but rather take shape through the minds and skills of peer groups. The result is a flexible and scalable built environment made from dynamic puzzle structures that can be constructed, modified and reused by the community.

WikiHouse by Architecture 00 is an online, open-source construction kit that allows the building of a house in just 24 hours. Users can download a house plan via the website, modify the design with the 3-D modeling program Google SketchUp to fit their individual housing needs, and cut out the parts using a CNC milling machine. The first official WikiHouse will be built and presented at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 in South Korea. Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that are creating the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), an open source, low-cost technological platform. 50 different DIY-fabricated industrial machines can be used to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts. Architect Vincent van der Meulen has collaborated with the Dutch organization Enviu to launch the Open Source House Project. It is a platform where designers, architects and entrepreneurs can share and work together in an effort to create affordable and sustainable housing to urban, low-income areas around the world.
Consumaker, a collaborative design event by Swedish design collective Useless Rethinking, held during Clerkenwell Design Week in London this spring, showcased work by Stockholm based designer Pål Rodenius. His series of standardized, do-it-yourself construction components invited visitors to engage in the process of design. In the series ’Saw, Assemble', sheets of plywood are printed with outlines of furniture components that consumers can cut-out and assemble into fully functional furniture objects. Inspired by Bauhaus, German-based architect Le Van Bo developed the 24 Euro Chair made from one wooden board, which cost 24 Euro and can be built in 24 hours. The chair is inspired by modern classics and is part of a furniture project called "Hartz IV Möbel“ (german welfare). The construction plan is offered for free, Le Van Bo only asks for photographs of the finished furniture in return.

A revolution is coming. In the way products are designed. In the way they are made. Affecting all realms of design, our digital lives are leading to a new manufacturing and community revolution whereby the ideals of local and global will be turned on their head. Local disposable factories will be able to produce hi-tech goods on our doorstep, or in fact in our homes. What is exciting is how such a revolution will affect the way that we consume and make things, from garage-like workshops to street vendor stalls. What will the factory of the future look like? With the taking back of production ownership it opens up an entirely fascinating view on the future of making things in this new DIT community. Social networks connect a digital community and bring them together in real terms paving the way for new thinking for brands and consumers alike.

Published September 2011 © Reproduced with kind permission of