The term open source is becoming popular among product designers. We see websites and initiatives appear with a lot of good intentions but sometimes missing the point and often creating confusion. Design magazines and blogs are always rushing into calling an openly published creation open source but rarely question the licenses or provide schematics or design files to download.

We are furniture designers, hackers and artists who have been working with free/libre and open source software for quite some time. For us, applying these principles to product design was a natural extension, providing new areas to explore. But we also realized that designers coming to this with no prior open source experience had a lot of information to grasp before getting a clear picture of what could be open source product design. So we set ourselves to mobilize our knowledge in this book.

We hope that this tool can be a base for teaching and learning about open source product design; a collective understanding of what one should know today to get started and join the movement; a reference students, amateurs and educators can have in their back pocket when they go out to explain what they are passionate about.

How to read this book

We have divided this book in sections that make sense for us. Each of these tries to address what we think is a general question you might have about open source product design. These sections are independent from each other and can be read individually, but they also interconnect and influence each other. You can start reading from wherever you feel you're most interested in and find your way through the book or just follow the steps as we've laid them for you.

For each section, we've tried to keep a similar structure that is divided as follows:

  • A bit of theory, where we define, explain and develop concepts from our point of view.
  • Then a list of tools that are related to that particular section. As designers, we are not only producing objects, we are also building an intimate relation with the tools we are using.
  • After this comes a series of open source objects that we think best represent what the chapter is about.
  • A section called food for thought will point you to a variety of projects, examples, authors, theories… that are not necessarily open source but that could nourish your intellectual process around it.
  • And we finish with open questions, for us and for you, to think further about these practices and help us define the future of it.