The Open Source Software Movement
Article by: David Reinfurt
Pages 165 - 174


Reinfurt brings up the idea of applying the concept of "open source" to design. He starts off comparing the Internet economy to Karl-Marx-Allee. Originally, everything was too similar, set to a standard format, and a surplus of similar graphics and graphic designers occurred. Reinfurt says that the extra logos could be "reused, taken apart, and repurposed."


Reinfurt next considers what defines "copying" and the purpose it should serve. Kevin Kelly, former Wired magazine editor, has defined three points of copying that are relevant to graphic design:
  • Perfection, "when the available technology can produce copies that are indistinguishable from the original"
  • Freeness, when "the perfect and costless reproduction of copies is possible"
  • Fluidity, "the copy can be instantly modified, reformed, reconnected, and even redistributed"
These points suggest an open source environment graphic designers could possibly take on.

The Four Freedoms

Reinfurt goes on to tell an anecdote of a woman who ran a bar and needed plastic pieces to create a storefront sign. She had to go through many places and people, but eventually got what she needed through the combined effort of multiple people, and it turned out quite well.

The principles of Open Source Software's "Four Freedoms" are paralleled quite well in Reinfurt's prior explanations:
  1. The freedom to run the program for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
  4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

For Reinfurt's vision of a open source graphic design community, those involved must be willing to share their work and allow other designers to edit and use it. In return, the designers "copying" it have assumed a responsibility of improving, adding to, or shifting the meaning of the design.


This will probably be a difficult concept to put into place, as the ownership of a design is often a touchy subject. Just Google how many companies Apple has sued in the past year for even partially copying their phone design. Go to a forum where art is posted and see the outrage at uncredited work. Copyrights, patents, and intellectual property rights are a major obstacle for open source design.