Open design is a hot topic. The 3D printer is applauded as a device that is going to revolutionize design, manufacturing and the distribution of goods. Consumers can design the products themselves and manufacturing is just a matter of printing. There are even speculations on printers becoming a household item. Finally, Alvin Toffler’s notion of prosument will come true: the customer as a proactive and capable producer.

Don’t underestimate good-old shopping

Technically this concept may sooner or later become possible but for now 3D printing is still expensive and slow. And so far the results are not very interesting. I see wild shapes that show us that everything is possible but also make me wonder where this will end. In an endless world of the most complex figurations? At the same time, on the internet I see a flood of poorly designed stuff, ready for digital production. Open design is an interesting concept but also a tricky one. Do we really want our world flooded with a stream of ugly objects? And is the consumer really prepared (or capable…) of designing for himself? I think that the fun of shopping around, whether online or on the street, should not be underestimated.

New possibilities

There is no reason to ignore the open design movement though. On the contrary, it opens a lot of new possibilities. It could enable people to customize the products they want to buy. It happens so often that you find the ultimate piece of furniture but the size does not meet your needs or the colour does not fit. Another pro is that sending blueprints instead of products over the world saves a lot of transport. And last but not least, because there are fewer middle-men in the system it can make high-end design affordable for a wider range of people. They can even make the products themselves, if they wish.

Upcoming platform launch

That’s why Droog is working on a digital platform for downloadable design. It will be launched as later this year. During Salone del Mobile in Milan we will reveal the principles behind this platform and show products specially designed for download.

Curation is key

On this platform, quality and diversity will be at the core. We will invite product designers, architects, fashion designers, design brands, schools and other institutions to participate and to open a ‘shop’. In this sense, the platform is curated. We want to create an environment for a wide range of digital high-end ‘shops’. The shops can decide for themselves how much customization they want to offer and how open they want to be. Consumers, on the other hand, can decide how much customizing they want to do. And for those that don’t want to make it themselves, we will offer a worldwide network of certified local manufacturers. This network will also be curated. We want high quality production and reliable producers. The local manufacturers can operate with digital technologies but we also want to include small handicraft workshops. After all, downloadable design is just a set of instructions that can be executed in various ways. The idea that high-tech developments can revive local crafts is exciting.

Who’s involved & more details

Design for download is an outcome of a project by Droog Design and Mediagilde. For this project we have collaborated with consultants Cathal McKee (CMK1), Catherine Jasserand (Ivir), Hans Lensvelt, Institute of Relevant Studies, Joris Laarman and Michiel Frackers. The project has been initiated by Droog and was made possible by Agentschap NL.

Featuring designs by EventArchitectuur and Minale-Maeda, Design for download will be presented in Milan from April 13th – 17th.

Wednesday – Saturday 11:00 – 21:00
Sunday 11:00 – 19:00

Via Alserio 22,Milan, 20159, Italy

More details here.