Jos de Mul. Redesigning Open Design. In Bas van Abel, Lucas Evers, Roel Klaassen, and Peter Troxler. Open Design Now. Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive. Amsterdam: Bis Publishers, 2011, 34-39.
The title of my talk today is “Redesigning (open) design” and the subtitle reads “Applying database ontology”. Let me start explaining this title, the question I want to address this afternoon and the answer I’m going to defend. One of the themes of Picnic 2010 is Redesigning design, of which (Un)limited Words and the (Un)limited Design Awards Ceremony are also part. In the program of Picnic 2010 the theme Redesigning Design is introduced as follows: “The design industry is going through fundamental changes. Open design, downloadable design and distributed design democratize the design industry, and imply that anyone can be a designer or a producer”. The subtext of this message seems to be that open design - for reasons of brevity I will use this term as an umbrella for the aforementioned developments, thus including downloadable design and distributed design – is something intrinsically good, so that we should promote it. Though my general attitude towards open design is a positive one, I think we should keep an open eye for the obstacles and pitfalls, in order to avoid that we will throw out the (designer) baby along with the bath water.
My talk consists of three parts. First I will present a short sketch of open design. I realize that most of you will be familiar with open design, probably even more familiar than I am, but as this concept has quite some different connotations and for that reason is prone to conceptual confusion, it might be useful to illuminate this tag cloud of connotations. In this first part, I will also summarize the main objections that can be (and has been) directed against open design.
Just like the other members of the ‘open movement’, such as open source software, open science, and open technology (as we will see, especially the open biology movement is an interesting example within this context), open design is strongly connected with the development of the computer and the internet. For that reason, in order to gain a deeper insight in both the chances and the pitfalls of open design, we should study the fundamental characteristics of the digital domain. In the second part of my talk I will give a sketch of the database ontology, the ABCD of computing, that underlies the digital domain. And finally, in the third part of my talk I will investigate some of the implications of this database ontology for the world of design. I will argue that in order to develop the positive aspects of open design without falling into the pitfalls, the designer should not so much give up his activities as a designer, but rather should redesign these activities. The designer of the future has to become a database designer, a meta-designer, who does not design objects, but rather a design space in which unskilled users are able to design their objects in a user-friendly way.