I came into this semester very unsure of what “open-source design” was and why a company or individual would ever choose it over patents or trademarks. After all, how could a company ever benefit or turn a profit from a design that is made available to everyone? This is the skepticism with which I entered the course.
I first began seeing OSD benefits in our study of the Tesla model: how they were able to capitalize on shared designs and blueprints, how they were able to work with companies all around the world to create the best possible electric car and yet still turn a profit, how they managed to create a market for electric cars by generating interest after their designs went public. I started to understand the ways that OSD could be incredibly productive and helpful to companies and inventors.
The values and actions that characterize the steps of OSD felt counter-intuitive at first to the profit-driven, capitalist mindset of our society. Yet once I understood that OSD is a business strategy that focuses on maximizing profit, value, and innovation in the long run, I was able to truly appreciate the genius of its structure. I especially witnessed this firsthand with our hydroponics system. We would not have been able to build the systems that we did without the help of dozens of other hydroponics designers and agriculturalists out there. But because the design is open-sourced, we were able to join in the global collaborative project to create the best, most efficient hydroponics systems in an effort to bring food and value to impoverished areas such as refugee camps.