[-empyre-] Week Four - Design

Femke Snelting snelting at collectifs.net
Wed Jun 23 23:34:37 EST 2010

Dear Empyre!

Thank you all for three interesting weeks of discussion. It seems almost too much to add 'design' to the mix now, but here we go:

As you can read from Michael Dieters introduction, both Pierre Huyghebaert and me are members of OSP (Open Source Publishing)[1], a graphic design collective using Free, Libre and Open Source Software only. We are affiliated with Constant, a Brussels based Foundation for Art and Media, and active since 2006.

To us, the part that software plays in creative work is just too interesting to leave with a single proprietary company. It might be the same for architecture, animation or writing, but in graphic design, there is not much to choose from if you want to play professional. Our choice for Free Software is therefore as much about an alliance with Free Culture, as a way to break with the shiny but dull surfaces of those habitual tools-of-the-trade.

Once we stepped through the glass mirror we discovered a wonderland of software and digital objects, intriguing cultural artefacts that helped us re-think what we do on many different levels. Interestingly, F/LOSS tools categorically refuse to disappear out of sight. Simply by digressing from the norm, they make automatic actions that seemed fluid before (such as producing a pdf, sending a document to a printer, converting a file, drawing a curve) suddenly tangible and material. It might sound like a cliché, but Free software does simply work differently because it is oriented through a practice where both collaboration and exchange of knowledge matter. In that sense, we have a lot more to gain from Free Culture than increased circulation and distribution only.

OSP works for various clients on illustration, bookdesign, webdesign, cartography and typography[2]. We aim to release all design and content under open licenses and make sources available where possible. Apart from commissioned work, we develop Libre fonts, performances, workshops, texts and software. For OSP it is obviously not so interesting to draw a hard line between publishing and design (or between form and content) and many of the issues brought up over the last few weeks on this list touch upon the kinds of issues we are busy with, or the discussions we have with our clients.

We like to think our Utopian project through practice. Our last adventure was to co-organise a large international Free Software event, the fifth Libre Graphics Meeting[3] because we wanted to contribute to an occasion for artists and developers to meet and collaborate. Our next will hopefully take our experiments to another level: we are getting prepared to develop a constellation of publishing tools from scratch.

We make a living from teaching, are being paid for services and receive some public funding through Constant. This has not changed much since we explicitly decided to work with Open Content and Free Software; it just clarified the kind of ecology we were already feeding off and into. In an interview OSP once recorded with Dymitri Kleiner[4], we asked him how he saw the economic future of Libre design. He explained us that there is no other option than to own the beer company you design for. His arguments were convincing, but we are not too sure it is the kind of practice we are ready for ;-)

Looking forward to the coming days of discussion!


[1] http://www.ospublish.constantzw.org
[2] http://www.ospublish.constantzw.org/works
[3] http://www.libregraphicsmeeting.org
[4] http://ospublish.constantvzw.org/conversation/why-you-should-own-the-beer-company-you-design-for

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