March 27, 2020

Distributed Design in the times of crisis

Current situation

In this time of COVID19, Distributed Design has quickly become our reality out of necessity. Fab Labs and makerspaces are distributing machines (3D printers, sewing machines among others) in order for people to begin to produce medical equipment in their homes. This has effectively created distributed city-wide labs, connected via local logistics and communications networks. 

Companies are also collaborating; opening their processes to rapidly design and innovate health and wellbeing equipment in response to the crisis on a global scale – this has given rise to the need for an international design language which is clear and communicable at distance. Designers are being pushed to explore new materials, upcycle and consider circularity in their process whilst remaining in quarantine. 

Value shift

As we adapt in this time of emergency, we also discover how we as designers and makers can adapt to the possibilities and benefits of Distributed Design – understanding the beneficial effects of knowledge sharing and approaches, material innovation, local supply chains, global collaboration and compassionate, human-centred value.

So how can the Distributed Design community help right now? We gathered a list of initiatives that involve makers & designers, for those of us who might be able to contribute at the moment. It is the time for distributed design and digital fabrication to rise to the occasion and take this time to use the power of the distributed way of producing and collaborating to help in this time of crisis.

Open source to the rescue

As we have witnessed in the past weeks, traditional manufacturing methods are not able to cope with the current situation, so it is imperative that distributed, open source, digital fabrication methods are now utilised in finding solutions in record time. It has become incredibly relevant to move bits instead of atoms and to design, prototype and manufacture at an accelerated pace as a community – all characteristics of the distributed design manifesto.

Makers Against Corona is a community effort for producing equipment such as face shields and delivering them to the healthcare professionals. They also accept donations, in case you are not able to help by making at this time. Thingiverse has a variety of useful open source designs such as this protective face shield, a respirator valvy or a UV sterilizer (only for objects, not for skin). You can find more Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies here. If you don’t have machinery or tools at hand, but know how the sew, making face masks is one way to contribute.

Support & Ideas against COVID

Our partners at Wikifactory are organising the open community to come together for viral response. They have organised the best maker initiatives by country to produce useful, much needed items for healthcare professionals and other workers dedicated to the fight against COVID-19.

COVID Accelerator brings together people and ideas with resources to move forward. We can work together to get ahead of this fast-moving virus. Designers, doctors, engineers etc. all working toward a common goal.

Our friends at Precious Plastic have set up a platform to collaborate on how the plastic recycling community can best help right now. If you have ideas or files regarding turning recycled plastics into solutions, join the collaboration!

For makers & designers to be able to help efficiently, we need access to the right information. Take a look at the message from Neil Gershenfeld, the “father of fablabs” on what to keep in mind whilst choosing your actions.


We invite you to keep sending us your initiatives and suggestions as the situations and needs keep evolving.


Stay safe, stay creative and take care of each other! ?

Blog post credits