If you've read this book form the start, you've guessed that we are trying to define Open source product design. You may have already encountered similar terms such as Open design, Open making, Open source design and so on. These overlap each other and sometimes set themselves apart. One might think these little differences are not important, because the overall idea is about sharing. We do not agree with this. It's in the little differences, in the terms and expression we use, that lie the ideals we stand for.

And how could we talk about something if we don't agree on the definitions behind the words we are using. So we have the urge to define a certain number of terms here and in the glossary so that, at least in the scope of this publication, you know what they represent for us.

As product designers coming from the free/libre and open source software movement, we are very picky with some words that have been defined in the software field, especially the term open source, which we invariably link to free/libre, although that's maybe not the case for everyone. We stand close to the philosophical and ethical ideals of the libre software community.

So, from now on, we hope you agree with us that we should only call Open source product design the objects that are properly created, documented and licensed under an open source license (re-read to the chapter about licenses if you're not sure what that means). For everything else, pick a name from the following:

Product design

As a verb is the process of creating a new product to be sold by a business to its customers. A very broad concept, it is essentially the efficient and effective generation and development of ideas through a process that leads to new products.

Open making

Open making is a practice mainly defined by the community around the website and project called OpenDesk.

[They seek] to define an emerging movement at the intersection of technology, design and manufacturing. [Open design] is an evolving set of principles and best practices on design and production for a collaborative economy.
Open Making

Open design

Open design is the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. Open design involves the making of both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware. The process is generally facilitated by the Internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy are identical to that of the open-source movement, but are implemented for the development of physical products rather than software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company.


Do It Yourself or Do It With Others approaches focus on making, repairing and globally empowering people to build things by themselves or in a knowledge sharing way. Although we totally encourage these practices, they usually bypass the discussion around licensing, property and access to information. These activities are confined in the grey area of not-for-profit manufacturing and private homes.

Open source design

Open source design is a term coined mostly by the graphic design community. This thus embraces a practice more related to the study of graphical user interfaces for software than its physical counterpart. Maybe this all due to the fact that "design" is such a broad term that applies to any action that involves making decisions or "planning something".



This well-known website is a collaborative user-edited encyclopedia. And as such, Wikipedia is a fantastic tool for an ever evolving consensus on definitions.


A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.


There is no better way to define things than to enter in conversation with those who use them. We have so many conversation tools today that it would be a pity not to use them in that sense. So write blog posts and comment under the posts of others. Contact journalists directly to correct them when they wrongly depict a situation or an event. Don't let anyone be wrong on the Internet.


Piccolo, the tiny CNC-bot

_Piccolo_ − Mathieu Gabiot − Free Art License
Image: _Piccolo_ − Mathieu Gabiot − Free Art License

When Piccolo was released, it mentioned on the website that the project was open source hardware, although they were restricting commercial use of the project. After discussing with them and pointing the incompatibilities between the restrictive license and the open source terms used in the description, the Piccolo team completely freed their project with a CC-by-sa.


**Pict** _Faircap_ − Poc21 − CC-by-sa
Image: **Pict** _Faircap_ − Poc21 − CC-by-sa

The Faircap is a 3D-printed water filter and when it was released, they announced it as open source while licensing it under CC-nc-sa. After pointing out to the creator why this license was misleading, the project was then released as Public Domain.

Food for thought

Open Making Manifesto

Open Making is a website by Opendesk that plans to serve as a manifesto and information resource for the open design or open making community. No license is attached to the texts and resources provided.

Critical Engineering Manifesto

The Critical Engineering manifesto was written by Julian Oliver, Gordan Savičić and Danja Vasiliev and released under à GNU Free Documentation License v1.3. As the first rule states it:

The Critical Engineer considers Engineering to be the most transformative language of our time, shaping the way we move, communicate and think. It is the work of the Critical Engineer to study and exploit this language, exposing its influence.

Open questions

  • Are you satisfied with the term "Open Source Product Design"?
  • Are you "free/libre" or "open source"?
  • Do you think we need to agree on a definition?