Sparkwood and 21 is an open design studio

What does an open design studio look like?

A desk illustration in grass
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I thought I'd write a quick post trying to explain why I have set up Sparkwood and 21 as an open source creative studio and what this means to me.

I'm really interested in open source philosophies. I like the camaraderie of the communities and the open collaboration. I like being able to have a direct effect on the development of products that I use. I like the idea of the freedom behind the licensing. I like the idea of supporting the underdog fighting picaresquely against the corporate giants. I like that the whole point of open source is being allowed to see (and modify) the code. In simple terms, with open source as a development model it allows access to a product's plans/blueprints through using a permissive license.

I've wanted to set up a studio for a while and making it into an open source studio has given me a great excuse to do it. I'd like to see how these open source philosophies, ideas and tools can be transferred to a creative studio environment. I'm also hopeful in seeing if it is economically viable to run a studio and make a living in this way. It also exercises my product design skills that have grown fallow recently, as well as giving me the opportunity to give artistic direction to the whole endeavour. One cannot be a freelancer forever.

I've jotted down a few ideas on how I see this particular brand of open source design/open design working. I'm sure they'll change in the future after experience and experimentation, but at least there's a foundation to work from.

Open process

I feel that a suitable equivalent metaphor for being allowed to see the code is being allowed to see the process of how something was designed. A while back I designed a chess set for people with visual difficulties and I "live blogged" the process as I created it over 10 days. It was a great (if stressful) learning experience for me and it still provides insights into how a product is designed for people.

I love reading about how people make, build, create their ideas and the processes they use and so I'm going to be showing insights into the creative process for some of the products and prints that I will hopefully be releasing through Sparkwood and 21. They say if you don't know what you should do you should teach, and I believe this is a great way of being able to share what I know and have learned.

Open licensing

With clear and easy to understand licensing, we know that other people will not be afraid to take aspects of our work and develop it themselves. Some licenses also allow the reselling of our work. This helps the development of ideas, emphasizes a sharing economy, helps promote the studio and gives other designers tools and content that they can build upon.

Open tools

There are now a lot of open source tools and software. I intend to use these as much as possible. This is to help develop these products through use, bug hunting and writing tutorials. This also helps make people aware that these tools exist and can be viable alternatives to more restrictive products and tools.

So, that's the plan for Sparkwood and 21. I feel that through a combination of creating products, prints and books; running workshops and teaching what I know; collaborating with other people over interesting projects and doing the occasional client work I can make Sparkwood and 21 a fairly successful enterprise.

I hope you hang around to see us grow. Thanks for you support.

Originally published at the Sparkwood and 21 blog. Republished here with permission from the author.

About the author

Duncan McKean - Fuelled by good music and damn fine coffee.