Open design is both thrilling and terrifying the design industry. There are so many possibilities, but as many unanswered questions. Marleen Stikker will always be a keen proponent of the system's benefits.
“Openness is more than a commercial and cultural issue. It is a matter of survival.” John Thackera
In the introduction to the recently published Open Design Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive, Marleen Stikker from the WAAG Society writes about cultural pioneers who do not accept the world at its face value, but hack, tinker and meddle with what’s given.
Stikker says a look at other industries proves that open source in design is unavoidable. “It is already happening,” she says, “and to survive, bring creative won’t be enough. You’ll need the right kind of fearless and outward attitude.”
It is an attitude that needs to be taught though and that is where many Dutch academies are failing. “The education system is way too monolithic,” Stikker says. “They need to become more interdisciplinary by mixing up information technology, engineering, business and creatives. People studying art and design need to know that their skills can be used in so many different areas – artists do not just have to cerate for museums. But in the Netherlands it is all very divided and you still can not do art at a proper academic level.”
Things are getting better though. Stikker point to Matthias Hollowich teaching at the Design Academy Eindhoven as one. But the prevailing attitude amongst design students is still that they design and others engineer. “But engineering is design,” says Stikker.
Stikker advises young students to request technology training. “They must be able to understand the black box,” she says. “Everything is becoming smart these days and graduating designers must be able to understand codes and how to make that happen.”
Still, the public discussions staged since the release of the Open Design Now book show that the industry is divided. Many embrace the concept, but others fear for their own livelihoods. “I already see that open design is having an unavoidable huge impact on the industry,” says Stikker, “especially on the distribution chain and the process of making.”
She says she sympathizes with all creatives but ultimately believes in a different future calling it the “rehabilitation of the maker.”
“Open design means that who made an object is no longer a trivial matter,” Stikker says. “The maker has an identity again and is not some faceless entity in some far away factory in Asia.”
But really, open source design means that everything will change. Techniques, technology, business models and distribution. Stikker singles out Bas Raaijmakers as a designer whose work exemplifies the potential of such change.
“We have already been talking about new business models in the Dutch chapter of Creative Commons for a long time,” Stikker says. “Open doesn’t have to mean free. There are lots of ways that people can protect their investments and still be open.”
And on the upside, open leads to new possibilities, more inventive processes, and a more responsible mindset.
“On an individual, professional and even a meta level everyone is talking about responsibility,” says Stikker. “When it comes to issues like limited resources and fair trade people want to see responsible systems in place.”
Designers need to sit up and take note. “Join the open source movement, Stikker says. “Look at it as something to experiment with because the future can only be created from now, and the future of open source design depends on how people participate now.”
Open Design Now was compiled by Creative Commons Netherlands, Premsela, the Netherlands Institute for Fashion and Design, and Waag Society. It was made possible with thanks to assistance from DutchDFA.
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