[Open Design] Open design and it's political dimension

Aitor Méndez aitor at e451.net
Tue Mar 19 09:31:44 UTC 2013

Hello everybody. I'm Aitor Méndez, graphic designer from Madrid, Spain.

The following is an introduction of the speech I wrote past year for the Open Design and Shared creativity Congress. In this moment I'm not totally sure of the role of Open Design in the social structure as seems in this introduction, but I think this can be a good starting point to talk about political dimension of Open Design:

The politics of language in graphic design.
Interventon at Open Design and Shared Creativity congress. Madrid June 2012.


This presentation aims to be an approach to open design through an unusual perspective, language. Open design is, to a large extent, the extrapolation of free software’s methods and goals to the field of design. Thus it is understandable that its proposals arise from tools that enable collaboration and how the results of design work can be shared. Language is a fundamental and unavoidable tool in design work, and it is surprising that no one, to my knowledge, has ever broached the issue of language from the perspective of open design.

But, what is the question that we have to approach? What are free software and culture about? Are transparency, collaboration and reusability aims by themselves? Most of the approaches and debates regarding open design seem to implicitly answer yes, losing sight of the fact that transparency, collaboration and reusability are mere strategies for a single purpose: the emancipation of the individual from the various powers that try to impose their conditions of existence. This objective could also be defined as the attempt to balance the forces between large power structures and individuals, giving back to them the chance to intervene and participate effectively in the organisation of their own existence. This question, and no other, is the spirit that should guide open design. This claim may seem obvious but it is increasingly necessary to pose due to the multitude of cases of misappropriation, or rather expropriation that the market executes regarding free and open strategies. We can see how the market uses free strategies to pursue its own ends, very far from equilibrium and social equality claimed in the premises of a free cultural movement.

In other words, open design should always be considered in its political dimension, because transparency, collaboration and release of resources are strategies that do not fully guarantee the balance and social justice by themselves.

The dichotomy between these two meanings of open design- the one that identifies a political dimension as its purpose and its raison d'être, and the one that is merely to implement a range of strategies that could also be used to promote the emancipation of the individual and, instead, supports their subordination- is, in fact, the same as it is given in the field of free software between these two meanings "open source" and "free software". It would be appropriate, therefore, to address these two areas as open and free design layout.

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