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The Obrary definition of Open Design

The world of Open Design is still in its infancy. There is not a common definition for the term 'Open Design' yet. So in the post, I'll explore some of the current meanings and give the Obrary definition of Open Design.

Open Source (Software)

For those of us in the word of technology, the generic term 'Open Source' usually means Open Source software. One of the early uses of Open Source was the software movement made famous by the likes of GNU and Linux. In Open Source, the software's source code is made available to anyone for any use. Here's the definition from Wikipedia at,

"Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose"

Open Source Hardware

The Open Source Hardware Association (OSHW) provides guidance about what constitutes open source hardware. OSHW provides this handy graphic to explain it:


Also, here's their explanation of why commercial restrictions don't fall under open source hardware (taken from

"Why aren’t non-commercial restrictions compatible with open source hardware?

There are a few reasons.

If you place a non-commercial restriction on your hardware design, other people don’t have the same freedom to use the design in the ways that you can. That means, for example, that if you and someone else both release designs with non-commercial licenses, neither of you can make and sell hardware that builds on both of your designs. Rather than contributing to a commons of hardware designs for everyone to build on, you’re limiting others to a very narrow range of possible uses for your design.

In particular, because making hardware invariably involves money, it’s very difficult to make use of a hardware design without involving some commercial activity. For example, say a group of friends wanted to get together and order ten copies of a hardware design – something that’s often much cheaper than each person ordering their own copy. If one person places the order and the others pay him back for their share, they’d probably be violating a non-commercial restriction. Or say someone wants to charge people to take a workshop in which they make and keep a copy of your hardware design – that’s also commercial activity. In general, there are just very few ways for someone to use a hardware design without involving some sort of commercial activity."

Open Design

The Open Source Hardware definition is great and applicable for the work we are doing. But we chose to use the term Open Design over Open Source Hardware. Those terms are close to synonymous to us, but here's why we use Open Design:

  • In the technology world, we understand 'source' to mean 'source code' or 'source file'. Source as in original. But outside of the realm where people intuitively interpet it that way, other people may think of source differently to mean where or how materials are procured. Source as in origin. Design is more intutive to more people to mean design files.
  • Hardware is not a broad enough term for the products we have in Obrary. For example, a chair is not hardware. Here is's definition of hardware:
    1. metalware, as tools, locks, hinges, or cutlery.
    2. the mechanical equipment necessary for conducting an activity, usually distinguished from the theory and design that make the activity possible.
    3. military weapons and combat equipment.
    4. Slang. a weapon carried on one's person: The rougher types were asked to check their hardware at the door.
    5. Computers. the mechanical, magnetic, electronic, and electrical devices comprising a computer system, as the CPU, disk drives, keyboard, or screen.

Obrary and Open Design

So, without further ado, here's the Obrary definition of Open Design:

  • The design is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) which you can see here Here's what that license allows:
    • Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
    • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
    • No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits."
    • This license allows for commercial use.
  • The designs source files are provided. The design source file is from the CAD application used to create the design. This could be Sketch-Up, Grasshopper, InkScape, etc.
    • We believe that in order for others to iterate on the the design, they are most empowered by the source file versus an exchange format like DXF.
  • Access to the designer. Whenever possible, communication access will be given to the source designer so that new designers can ask questions about the design.

Creative Commons

Why did we pick Creative Commons?

Creative Commons has easy to understand licenses. Some other licenses have long documents full of legaleze that I can't get through. The Creative Commons licenses are more user-friendly.

Creative Commons is the now the most popular licenses for hardware and designs, so our hope is that CC will be more easily identified and understood by people.

The Creative Commons license is about general IP and is not just for software or technology based hardware.

So that's Obrary's definition of Open Design.

See the Open Designs

Topics: open source Grasshopper InkScape Creative Commons SketchUp Open Design OpenSource Hardware