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Open Source Industrial Design


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#1 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 10:24 AM

Over the years, I've found many people with great ideas who simply have no outlet for expressing them. Their ideas may be specific to the field in which they work, or they may be unrelated. Some of the ideas are simple fixes, others are revolutionary changes. Quite often, these ideas are eventually produced, albeit quite a bit later than when they were first thought up.

Having used Linux and many pieces of open source software, it dawned on me that the ideas of open source could be applied to many more things than simply software. Having a mind that is constantly looking to improve on things, I figured that the collaborative power of open source could be harnessed to design products, among other things.

Now, unlike software, design is something that any person could help with. The end user may not always know exactly what he or she wants (and sometimes even if they do know what they want, they may not be able to draw it) , but they do know what they like when they see it. It is a simple task to look at a rendering or model of something and tell if that is something they could use.

The advantages, however, also extend to the designers themselves. First, as much thought as a designer puts into something, he or she may not think of everything. In fact, he or she may overlook something that, to another designer or end user, is quite obvious. I cannot count the amount of times I have seen a product released, and immediately several improvements are suggested for it. Also, the risk involved in releasing a product is greatly decreased when the consumer already know what they are getting. In fact, the choice of which product to release and when may be much more discernible since it would be already know what the consumer thinks of the product from a design standpoint.

I understand that collaboration is already used in the design of many things. However, to my knowledge, it has not been tried on this sort of scale (I understand ThinkCycle is something like this, but I was thinking of something on a much more simple level that could scale to meet all sorts of challenges and still be easy to understand for the average person) . So, I will try to outline my thoughts thus far on the subject:

The first step in an open source design would either be a problem that some user has, or a design looking for improvement. In either case, the design community would make several suggestions, and then produce several sketches or renderings trying to fix whatever problems were diagnosed. There could be a system of voting to decide on which solution was the best, and then the next round of suggestions would follow. Different groups could fork whenever they felt like the main group's solution was not the ideal one, leading to several different end solutions to the problem. Over the course of several iterations, the product would gradually get better and better. Also, people who were not directly designing the product (perhaps even those who would be the end users) could weigh in with suggestions. The end result would be a design or set of designs that had passed the scrutiny of the designers and users alike. Their would be no ambiguity as to whether or not people would like the design, because they all had seen it and made suggestions.

I would hope to start the implementations of this with a website. Drawings could be posted and ranked, and discussions could go along side each project. Eventually, videos, flash animations, and the like could be added (I would be hesitant to make the entire site flash, as many computers lag on flash sites). The exact design of it I would leave up to the community. From there, I would hope to build it into an open source program, complete with text, video, and audio chat, discussion boards, file-sharing, and other collaborative tools.

The part of the idea that I have not worked out yet is the financial aspect. As with open source software, getting paid for things done as a community and in the open is difficult. However, I do have a few ideas, although I am unsure as to how much financial or business sense they make. First the designs would not be sold or patented. I for one cannot stand the way patents have been abused in modern society. Instead, they would be licensed to companies. The reason for this is simple. If a company buys the design, they are under no obligation to produce it to the specification of the design. They may simply take the parts they like, and make a monstrosity out of what was a great community effort. It could also stifle any further improvement of the product, as the design would belong solely to the company, and not the community. The license would allow the company the sole right to produce the design provided it followed the guidelines of the design. Any problems encountered (engineering etc) would be changed by the community, and not the company. Payment would be based on input. While the website/program leaders would get a standard cut, most of the money would go to those who contributed the most to the design. The license payment would most likely be based off the success of the product, rather than a lump sum at the beginning, so that the initial investment for the company would be lowered, and the potential payout for the designers would be raised. Again, I am not entirely sure as to the sanity of this section. This is just my idealistic hope. The designs could even be entirely non profit if need be.

Anyways, I would be interested to hear what you think of this idea. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. After all, it is open source...

#2 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 05:08 AM

Is no one responding based on the topic, or did I just make the post too long?

#3 waikit

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 10:35 AM

your topic reminds me of some related discussions:

http://www.productde...?showtopic=1652
http://www.productde...l=designsharing
http://www.productde...orking together

i'm worried about the feasibility (management, benefits, trust) of this concept. i would say, try it out to find out

btw, get in touch with our moderator rodanx86, he built this:
http://demasse.schtuff.com/

#4 Guest_newkillerstar_*

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 04:18 PM

yes, sorry Jambon. You lost me at "having used linux". Too many words, words are hard. words.

try adding some pictures or full color charts

#5 Guest_J-Ro_*

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 07:11 PM

There's a Japanese company called Elephant Design that does just this. Their website is in Japanese, but their customers suggest products, select design features that they like, then vote on a final design.

#6 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 07:36 AM

Ya, I got carried away when I wrote it. Other times I posted this idea I haven't made myself clear so I am bombarded by tons of questions, so I decided to make a thesis out of it to clear things up. I guess it ended up having the opposite of the intended effect. I'm sorry for not posting any pretty pictures or charts. Words will have to suffice for now. A chart would take too long to make, and I could more clearly describe things in words anyway.

First of all I really hope I didn't lose any of you with Linux. It's important enough that if you don't know what it is, read that link to find out the basics. Hope it doesn't confuse any of you. Second, Open Source isn't a new kid on the block. It's been proven to work. For those of you who need examples, here are a few: Firefox, GIMP, Open Office, and as you probably know already Wikipedia itself. For those of you who don't know about or haven't tried any of these, I highly recommend you do, especially Firefox if you aren't using it already.

Granted, these are all software projects. You may believe that the same ideas can't be used with design due to it's differences. Well I would argue that. waikit expressed some concern about management and trust. I can assure you, these wouldn't be as much of a problem as they seem. I'm not advocating complete anarchy (ok maybe in some versions of it I am, but I'll get to that later). In most cases, like in most open source software projects, there would be a few lead designers working closely together, while the community was relied upon for tweaks and suggestions. It would function as any normal design studio would, except the drawings would be publically available for crtitique. Like J-Ro said about Elephant Design, the final product would be a result of what the community thought was best.

On the other end of the possible spectrum is basically pure chaos. In effect, design meets survival of the fittest. The basic idea being drawings are done, then submitted. People see what they like, and make more drawings and suggestions. Like evolution, eventually a few *should* come out on top. It's not pretty, but as nature has shown, very effective. Some of the solutions nature has come up with still amaze both designers and engineers today. (Oh an interesting sidenode, genetic algorithms were used to create an antenna for NASA. This is what they came up with. An interesting read, if a bit technical. Really all you need to see is the picture of the end result. )

Somewhere along that spectrum, you could find a happy medium for your project. As I said, not for everyone or everything. The advantage is, of course, that anyone can start a project, and anyone could help. No boss need be there to tell you what to do.

I would suggest that we try it out here, though the php format isn't the best. If anyone cares to give it a shot with something that we would all like to contribute to (oh, say, mp3-player?), I think it could turn out quite well.

#7 Guest_designer darrin_*

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 08:48 AM

I too have questions about the integrity of people involved, unfortunately there is a thing involved here called 'money'. As a 'realist' I have concerns about ownership of designs and losing designs to either other team members or other parties.

Personally I would want to see no money involved and maybe a system where design firms and companies have to do a certain amount of 'pro rata' (or is that 'pro bono') work.

great fuel for thought though Jambon, the world needs more people like you :)

#8 Guest_The duke_*

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 02:36 PM

It is an intresting idea one which has been discussed before all be it in a different context.
There would be issues with Finance and approuch to finding a profitable solution.

#9 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 11:37 PM

The money issue is something that I really haven't completely worked out. However, I don't think that is the point. First comes the design. The money will follow. As it has been said "build it, and they will come". Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser, used to be completely non-profit. They now spun off a corporation (which is STILL open source) that makes, by one estimate $72 million simply from google searches. That isn't chump change, and they sure we not planning on making that when they started.

The ownership issue is one which I will probably get into several arguments with people about. I have this thing about intellectual property. In short, I don't like it, and believe it really shouldn't exist. Thomas Jefferson I believe had a very good insight on it. However, in this world, that simply isn't going to fly. So, we could always adopt some form of the GPL (freely distribute the design, but all changes must be freely given back) or Creative Commons licenses. Doing some reading on things, the legal issues surrounding industrial designs seems a rather murky topic for someone like me who isn't a lawyer. I'll try to do some more research (or if someone does know more, please enlightenment me). I hope that designs can be afforded the same protections that software projects are. It would be a shame if there isn't some sort of license that protects open source designs from being produced without permission like there is for software.

#10 Guest_unni_*

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 07:11 AM

thnx for the basic inputs Jambon...i for one was lost when i read ur thread for the first time. i dont have much clue of how its going to work. but the idea seems very fascinating. one things i completely agree with is th fact tht all the ideas and concepts need to be thrashed out before it gets to the market.
so i hope i am getting this right. u r talking abt a space where ppl can come together and also by taking it to the companies and other market it wud be a business venture...i have a feeling i have got it wrong.
also i dont understand how the financial aspect is going to work out.
but such an effort i am sure will be widely appreciated and accepted by designers and anybody who wants to participate because interaction and discussions have only helped us.

#11 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 10:19 PM

Right now I think the it is important to keep this whole thing in perspective. If no one will give it a chance simply because they don't think any money can be made off of it, then it will never have a chance. It's a catch-22. What must first be done is demonstrate that we can actually design a project in such a manner. Mozilla I don't think expected to make money from google searches like they are. Likewise, we all can't get hung up on the money issue.

I understand legal protections are an issue. Design has been historically a solo or small group venture, where all progress is hidden until the product is released. This secrecy is what normally kept things from being stolen. Since most people didn't anticipate this sort of collaborative design, I don't know if there are any licenses that would legally protect any of these designs from used without permission. However, since it is out in the open, we would have more than enough proof to show that we came up with the designs first (prior art). That would be much harder to prove if done in private. However, I don't see this as something that should scare people away. I'm sure there is a way to solve this issue. The same rights are afforded to software projects, and so we should also be allowed the same rights.

I do see this project being successful. I see this stretching far beyond this site. I am pretty sure that if we got started in a format that is readily accessible to a large audience, we could have a lot of input. If we did something tech related I could see sites such as Engadget, Gizmodo, digg,and maybe even Slashdot covering this. After all, the tech community does seem quite fond of potential tech designs. At that point we'd need to have chat ready (not sure if this site has chat available, but I could see us using the Freenode IRC network for starters) because there is no way this site could handle the amount of input we'd be getting in php format. And in the unlikely case of Slashdot or digg getting wind of this, the servers would have to be ready as well, because we'd be getting a lot of traffic. Never underestimate how excited nerds (myself being one of them) could get over the possibility of designing their own gadget.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. First we need to start. So, *ALL* of you who read this, please PM me or post here if you feel you would contribute to this. I don't want to start something in the Works in Progress section until I'm sure I have enough support.

#12 Guest_Ayendé_*

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Posted 10 April 2006 - 08:17 PM

I think that this whole forum is in a way...open source. The "in progress" section is an incredibly good idea. The designer starts it off, and becomes a moderator of sorts, much like an administrator on a webboard, and just kinda guides the process, interprets others' thoughts, and gives form to the ideas. at least thats my take...

#13 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 05:14 AM

Ok, time to wake this thread up.

Before I post anything in the Works in Progress section, I would like some feedback on what people would like to design. I'm personally a fan of electronics, so my choices would be laptop or mp3 player/cell phone (We could design "the Engadget" and get the support of that site). Of course, we could do just about anything else, so feedback is welcome.

Post away....

#14 Tim_meh

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 04:29 AM

Electronics and fashion..mixture of the two is the current trend. I guess the target market these companies are looking at, are willing to pay that little bit extra for something that looks nicer and has a few fashionable features [e.g. Option to dress up a mobile phone (cases, faceplates)].
Sony Ericsson and Nokia seem to be pumpin out some mp3 cell phones at the moment and marketing the fact that its a music player..possibly even more so than the phone..meaning the cell phone is the secondary feature.
Don't think you could go wrong with anything in the electronics section as long as it differentiates itself from the rest of the market..see if someone can find something that hits the target..i'll go away and ponder for a bit

#15 Guest_Jambon_*

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 02:07 AM

...and you thought this was dead. Well, it's not...yet. In fact I hope to resurrect it. How? Well, since I figured this site isn't the best place to start something like I have proposed, I got me another. It's a wiki, and nothing has been officially started on it (In fact I've done nothing to it since I got it). So, for those of you who want to use it as an extension of this site, go knock yourself out.

Open Design




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