What is “Open Design”?

Open design it’s a design that everybody can reproduce because the company that has done it before never claimed it, or because it’s coming from a supplier that doesn’t give any exclusivity or simply because it has been copied so many times that in the common sense it’s reproducible. Open Design is the founding base of many trading companies in Asia and the foundation of Alibaba and fellas.

Believe me, nothing against Open Source, we put all our projects in the web and even the drawing of our Cardboard Furniture series are free for download, but Open Design here is considered a way to make easy money out of products that are possibly developed by “born with a silver spoon in their mouth” because they don’t have to earn money from their work, or more probably, by designers that got robbed of their ideas and rights.

I was recently trying to explain to a supplier that if he found my lamp on an open design website it didn’t mean that he could copy it, and that I would have made him loose face (worst than taking you to court or killing your mother in China).

Let’s go a little bit deeper and less personal:

If you take a look to the quantity of products that everyday hit the market in and from China you would think that, today more than ever, the consumer could find a way to fulfill exactly his personal needs and have a unique product. But this is just an illusion because in this zoo of products you will always find the same ones and precisely the Open Design ones.

Also these products look like something you know and you have seen many times (again it’s open design so everybody produces it) but they are not, they are the garbage of open design:

cables for iPhone that are not original so they will never work, Batteries which are too heavy and cheap to find place in a woman’s bag, plastic Stools that will break the first day, they all find a space and companies are very far from redesigning them or changing them. In such a giant market, they can sell them anyways. In such an environment there’s no space for new designs, especially in products that have ended their life cycle.

This all Chinese concept of  Open Design produced a market in which the differentiation is made by advertisement, catalogues, communication in general or by the legs of the Russian girl in the fair not by the quality of the object. So today what remains to sell these is just marketing.

In other words: it’s not what you have to sell, because you don’t own the design (it’s “Open”), you can’t design something new (it’s not worth), so the battle is price and how you sell it.

The smart Chinese way to create compartments of same shops or services in the same malls or roads has been taken to the ridiculous stage in which if you go to the Hong Kong electronic fair you find entire pavillions with the same Bluetooth Speaker; the exact same one, coming from the same factory that invested years ago in mouldings and produces it for everybody.

Remember: selling is money, money to become rich, not to invest; so why designing something if you can avoid this cost, why producing for one brand if you can give the same product to everybody and again, why thinking about quality if you have to reverse engineer a product in one night because you can’t do anything else than using open design or copying?

China has definitely to find it’s own way, it’s marketing strategies (extremely primitive nowadays) but also develop protective laws for copyright otherwise design will be dead in a while.