Design is currently at its most accessible. We are currently witness to a changes in design processes and manufacturing that are opening up arenas that were previously inaccessible to non-designers. While 3D printing has lent a hand in recent developments, companies such as OpenDesk, have a different approach that activates individuals to become part of the manufacturing process. OpenDesk provides digital designs and the customer decides, based on their own access to materials and machinery, if they want to build the desk themselves, purchase it as a flatpack and assemble it themselves, or receive their piece whole from a professional maker.
Icsid interviewed Nick Ierodiaconou, Director & Lead Designer at Open Desk to discuss the foundations of OpenDesk, the influence on micro-manufacturing and the future of open designs. Let us know what you think using #accessible on Facebook and Twitter.
Q: How did this idea for a company come about?
OpenDesk is a part of 00, a London based strategic design consultancy with a multi-disciplinary team of architects, designers, researchers, geographers and software developers. Over the past few years we’ve worked on a range of projects looking at the interface between digital fabrication and the web. OpenDesk began at the very start of this journey when we designed a computer numerical control (CNC) milled workdesk for the digital agency Mint Digital in 2011. We saw this as a repeatable way to design products for local just-in-time production and were intrigued by the idea from John Maynard Keynes, that ‘…it is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits’. We decided to open source our design and the idea of OpenDesk was born.
We spent the next two years researching the emerging digital maker space, and in 2012 launched FabHub, a directory and map of digital fabrication service providers around the world. With FabHub, digital makers can list their services and show off their work and process; designers and other businesses in turn can find good local fabbers for prototyping or production, searching by location, technology, or materials. We saw the potential for a distributed marketplace for designers to share designs, customers to order products, and makers to quote on fabrication, without some of the traditional locking of big intermediaries and supply chains. The current OpenDesk website was launched in August 2013 to begin to address these issues.
Unlocking the potential for this distributed making marketplace whilst solving the related technological and social challenges now lies at the heart of our mission with OpenDesk.
Q: Has there been any feedback from the design community? Or the public? What has it been like?
We have had a huge amount of feedback since our launch with over 80,000 people visiting our website within the first 48 hours. Thousands of people have downloaded design files and hundreds of quote requests have been placed for products to be made locally all over the world, from Thailand to Argentina. The primary interest geographically has come from the Unites States, Brazil, and France, although the coverage generally has been spread all across the globe. This has shown us that there is substantial demand for products made in a new way everywhere (digitally, locally, and on demand). Our challenge has been that we were not primed to manage the spike we got at launch, and as such have only been able to physically deliver a small number of orders so far as we grow our maker base and team, with a large backlog still in the pipeline. However in parallel we have also had a growing interest from makers signing up on FabHub to offer their services and make OpenDesks, so our capacity is increasing all the time.
Whilst we have had some feedback from designers directly (with people suggesting designs), we have not had the infrastructure in place to date to support open submissions on our site. In order to address this we are now working on the next version of the website, which will include the ability for people to recommend designs for inclusion. We are currently on the lookout for our next group of designers to work closely together, and keen to hear from anyone interested.
Much of the feedback we have received has included enthusiastic support for our mission, but furthermore we have received a large number of requests for specific types of products not currently offered on our site. This has helped to steer our next design direction and will largely inform upcoming developments to our website as we open out to new designers.