Products of the open design context

Authored by: Paul Micklethwaite

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138910171
eBook ISBN: 9781315693309
Adobe ISBN:


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Open design is commonly seen to derive from the power of the Internet and its associated technologies to distribute the means of producing and reproducing data and content of all kinds – including product designs. Open design connects the generation and transmission of digital content to actual material production and physical embodiment – the making of tangible things. Open design therefore represents an opening-up of the means of production of our material culture – how we make things. This chapter considers products in the open design context more broadly, in relation to considerations of sustainability and practices of social and sustainable design. It takes a broad view of the term ‘product’. Object-based designing is not necessarily the optimal way of addressing the ‘wicked’ problems we face as manifestations of the inherent unsustainability of our existing systems of production and consumption, and our current lifestyles and value systems. The open design context can be seen to extend beyond the current model of the creation of products via an expanded circle of participation, to include the expanded field of design represented by service design and social innovation. This chapter, therefore, considers not simply products in the open design context (in the form of new modes of doing product design) but also products of the open design context. It uses an expanded idea of product which includes any form of designed outcome, physical or non-physical, and an expanded idea of openness which goes beyond the internet- and digitally-enabled production of physical objects.

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