Enlai Hooi

It is still somehow an unusual thought that open design might be considered a viable, possibly even beneficial, strategy for business. The product design industry has been slow to move on the issue of open intellectual property, despite the fact that intellectual property is one of the safest fields for an open structure. While many people have the facility to copy software and download music, it is somewhat less common for people to have access to rapid manufacturing services, workshops, specific components and materials.

In truth, there should be no reason for preventing people with the resources to produce such objects from doing so. They tend to be the people most invested in how the processes of production relate to the quality of the object. They offer excellent and necessary critical feedback. DesignSmash is a company that produces and sells products based on Creative Commons  CREATIVE COMMONS licences that allow the legal reproduction of designs. The feedback and design changes offered by the community of people invested in our open design project are an essential part of our business plan. Regular events  EVENTS take place where designers come together in a collaborative design session, a charette, and ‘smash out’ products in the middle of a party. The products are laser-cut on the spot and presented to the audience at the end of the night.

While the design objects are not always fully refined after the four-hour design charette, the value of the object becomes clear. Importantly, the release of the design file over the internet allows other designers to comment on and modify the work of the original designer. The development process is user-driven. The potential revenue lost by DIY  DIY is negligible compared to the benefits of the feedback and promotion received from allowing others to get involved in the design work. For a start-up company with limited resources, this interaction is essential.

The events offer the designer exposure and the chance to learn, produce, collaborate and dance within the space of an evening. Some of these designs are picked up as products. If they are produced by DesignSmash, 12.5% of the product’s profits go to the designer. This is significantly more than the industry standard; clearly, the designer will benefit from this arrangement. A further 12.5% of profits are reserved for future open design initiatives and open design education.

Customers decide whether or not to purchase a product based on an assessment of its value. When the cost of a product is below a certain threshold, i.e. low enough to be purchased without interfering with the buyer’s lifestyle, the values of the brand have significantly more influence on whether or not the customer buys the product. Open design, local manufacture, the designer’s story: all these aspects accumulate as mutually beneficial factors in the value equation that accompanies the product. DesignSmash has a clear position on this matter: why not? Why not give the designer a greater portion of the profits? Why not allow people to learn from the objects being produced? Why not re-invest in the design community? Why not? It will certainly be good for business.

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