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The Open Desk Design Platform – Connecting Designers & Makers

The Open Desk Design Platform - Connecting Designers & Makers

London-based Opendesk, launched in 2013, offers a platform for local making. The founding team is multidisciplinary and strongly believes that designers should explore their social impact, says co-founder Joni Steiner. Opendesk connects independent makers and designers all around the world to clients looking for an affordable, bespoke, eco-friendly home and office furniture. The company works with existing companies and workshops, matching them to potential customers according to criteria that include location and cost. ‘The next big thing is actually many small things because instead of a few big factories we can have many, many small workshops,’ says Steiner.

London-based Opendesk
London-based Opendesk

‘Our platform delivers this kind of small-scale, local socio-economical benefit.’ The Opendesk Open Making network currently counts around 530 workshops. Designers submit concepts to Opendesk, which then supports them at the prototyping stage, thus building a library of designs that are downloadable, shareable and makeable around the whole network. ‘We want to show the entire history of a design: who did the original and who did the edits so that clients can have a greater choice of versions,’ says Steiner. He compares the concept to that of GitHub, where software developers store and share all the various iterations of their work. ‘It’s a trend for designers to move from being in a monologue, and precious about what they do, to a dialogue,’ he adds.

Opendesk has a service specifically dedicated to companies that want to fit out their offices. Clients include Greenpeace, Kano and Impact Hub. ‘We can be bespoke, and sustainable because all the timber and plywood come from well-managed Forest Stewardship Council forests. Opendesk is locally made, material-efficient, affordable and quicker than going to a high-end designer brand,’ says Steiner. Most of the designs presented on the platform are open-source and this is one of the key values of its model. Another innovative element is totally transparent pricing that allows clients to see the price of the materials, of the machining work, of the finishing, the designer’s fee and the cost of the platform for connecting, prototyping and marketing. ‘We’re interested in building what we’re trying to build without comprising on the values behind our model,’ explains Steiner. Opendesk, he stresses, was not created with the aim of maximizing profits. Rather, it is a technology platform that nurtures a mutually beneficial partnership with the global community of independent makers and designers, and inspires a different way of thinking about business.

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