Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Open Source Graphic Design

Commons Design, a new open source graphic design site, has opened its doors to the public. I recently spoke with Tim van den Bosch about his new project and his thoughts on the viability of open source in graphic design.

Recently, Tim van den Bosch launched Commons Design, a site that enables an open source type environment for collaborative graphic design. Users sign up, upload a project and other users can comment, edit, tweak and re-upload for further collaboration. Look no further than the new button for Commons Design, which several designers have already contributed to.

Tim cites the following from his Master’s thesis, which prompted the creation of the site:

More than half a century later, groups of people are working together on large-scale projects without traditional markets or managerial hierarchies. Amazingly, incentives like profit or duty as an employer don’t play a role in this new production process. If we look at the development of Linux and the rise of online social software platforms you see the user becoming the developer.

The idea of collaborative design is not new. Photoshop tennis has been around awhile, and there are entire forums dedicated to Photoshop battles and collaborations. Commons Design simply takes the idea to the next level: open source design.

Tim admits there are disadvantages to the idea (such as incentive for people to contribute, plus legal issues for copyright), but the open source system is proven to work because people believe in the idea. Consider these critical advantages over closed systems:

  • Distributed creativity = democratized innovation
  • Source code is available and users can modify and distribute it freely = peer learning
  • Networking and building your portfolio

Besides looking great (the site is loaded with clean design and well-placed JavaScript effects), browsing the projects shows a clear community interest in peer reviewing and collaboration. Even non-contributors offer critical feedback, fostering an environment not unlike an agency review room, where people roundtable over a design.

While it is difficult to imagine the future of all design existing as open source, Commons Design provides a truly viable alternative to the closed-door creation system that currently prevails. And if nothing else, it provides a controlled environment for feedback and review, which is invaluable for solo designers and freelancers.

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commentary + criticism

Web Design Dave

wrote the following on Tuesday August 7, 2007

I personally love the concept of open source graphic design. I think that as long as people are given credit, i.e. a link to their site or a URL for print projects, they should get over the whole copyright thing. If you don’t want anyone to copy a particular piece of art then don’t upload it to the open source page. If you want to promote yourself do put it on the open source page.

Pedro Bovolden

wrote the following on Tuesday April 1, 2008

Hey man, I’m an artist that just came out of a 20 years coma. I prefer Quark XPress. Am I a complete dilicalotapus?


wrote the following on Wednesday April 15, 2009

My knob is enormous