What is the Distributed Design Platform?

Emerging at the intersection of the Maker Movement and design sensibility, Distributed Design provides a framework for designers, makers and creatives to innovate the field of design towards more sustainable, open, inclusive and collaborative practices. As global challenges intensify, shifting the global paradigm to support global connectivity and local productivity where bits travel globally, while atoms stay local becomes urgent. Distributed Design is a proactive response for makers and designs to prefigure viable design alternatives to the current paradigm that is designed for mass consumption.

The Distributed Design Platform was established in 2017, co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union. It brings together a diverse member-base from cultural and creative institutions including Fab Labs, cultural organisations, universities and makerspaces. The Platform provides Europe-wide programming and opportunities to support emerging creatives working in the emerging field of Distributed Design.

The production paradigm

Today, the products we buy usually travel thousands of kilometers before we can enjoy them. They are assembled in super-sized factories out of materials that often have to travel long distances before reaching the factory. These factories turn out mass-produced, highly standardized products, which leaves no room for individual customer needs nor the use of local resources or knowledge.

What if we could change this system? Reduce the ecological footprint of products, democratise the access to quality design and expand the market for designers, makers and manufacturers?

Distributed Design is a novel approach to design which utilises global connectivity to move data, instead of product. The approach rethinks how goods are produced and from what materials whilst aiming to enhance the customer’s relationship with their products.

Developing a platform system

To move data and enable local regenerative economies of materials and knowledge a powerful digital ecosystem is needed. Distributed Design Platform is committed to empowering, connecting and interoperating existing platforms that enable such global connectivity. We do this by incubating and supporting emerging platforms such as Make Works or Fablabs.io. We love tech, but it won’t save us. As a platform, we also believe in the socialisation of technology such as digital platforms. We also develop programs to help distributed designers build their skills and knowledge of digital processes, in order for them to access the maximum benefit that these platforms offer.

Our values

  • Open

    Open refers to the mentality and approach of designers to share and make their design processes transparent, replicable, and accessible, from hardware and software to implementation and usability.

  • Collaborative

    Collaborative means enabling citizens to become active participants in the design process through meaningful and participatory co-design approaches.

  • Regenerative

    Regenerative making and design principles aspire to renew and restore the systems that we are part of, rather than just replacing or devaluing them.

  • Ecosystemic

    Ecosystemic means acknowledging the complexity of interactions between cultural, natural, and social aspects and designing to improve the health of social and environmental systems.

Advisory board

The Advisory Board provides experience and knowledge to the development of the Platform. It meets two times a year with the members of the project, and where possible they also participate in other events organised by the Platform.

  • Indy Johar

    Indy is an architect, co-founder of 00 (project00.cc) and a Senior Innovation Associate with the Young Foundation and Visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield.

  • Primavera De Filippi

    Primavera is a permanent researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, a faculty associate at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.

  • Daniel Charny

    Daniel is an educator, consultant and curator with an enquiring mind and an entrepreneurial streak. He is founder director at Forth – a community interest company who believe in the power of creativity as a tool for social change. It’s the new home for the Fixperts and FixCamp learning programmes. Charny is a member of The Design Museum curatorial committee and is Professor of Design at Kingston School of Art.

  • Liza Chong

    Liza has a blended background in strategy, project management and implementation. In INDEX she leads the ‘Design to Improve Life Investment’ program, an acceleration program that works with design entrepreneurs and impact investors in realising sustainable solutions to global challenges. 

  • Nadya Peek

    Nadya develops novel fabrication machines at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. With her great knowledge in machines and digital fabrication she is an active member of the global fab lab community and a board member of the Open Source Hardware Association.

  • Guillaume Charny-Brunet
    Guillaume is the co-founder and Strategy Director of SPACE10 – a research and design lab, on a mission to create a better everyday life for people and planet.
  • Tomas Diez

    Tomas is a Venezuela born Urbanist, Designer and Technologist who specializes in digital fabrication and its implications in the future of cities and society. He is a founding partner and executive director of the Fab City Foundation, as well as a member of the board of trustees of IAAC Foundation, where he also is a senior researcher and tutor.

  • Kate Armstrong

    Master Arts and Society (University Utrecht) and Bachelor of Design (UNSW), Kate has vast experience in cultural programming, design and open tech fields in Australia and Europe. As Outreach Lead at Fab Lab Barcelona at IAAC she led communication and dissemination for various European research projects concerned with circular economy, open design innovation ecosystems and future cultural heritage.

What impact?

Some of the challenges of working on shift paradigms such as the Distributed Design concept and the idea to “design to distribute” are related to a pivot from the current economy to a spiral situated-innovation ecosystem, in which materials flow locally, within cities or bioregions, whereas information on how things are made circulates globally.

The Distributed Design Platform values creations that are ecosystemic, sustainable, open and collaborative. Applying Distributed Design values contributes to building new pathways for sustainability in diversity and social justice, engaging civic leaders, makers, (digital) social innovators on societal change and transformation.

Such aim resonates with the concept of “cosmolocalism”, which emphasises the need of creations to be rooted in a place. Empowering individuals to become civic actors, or ‘prosumers’ blending the ‘consumer’ and ‘producer’ roles. Contributing with learning for emerging futures, incorporating a stronger emphasis on the use of convivial tools, learning-by-doing in education systems and curricula, and engaging all levels of future-making in finding solutions for local needs through distributed (human) agency, open-source software and hardware technologies, and sharing them with global networks.

📢 Engage on the making of such a collective impact.

Join the Distributed Design Impact Charter Pledge by replying to the 5-Question-Step PLEDGE below.


Who is involved?

The Distributed Design Platform is built upon a unique and highly experienced consortium of 20 members from 13 countries. The project is coordinated by Fab Lab Barcelona and supported in the scientific and technical coordination by IAAC.