You've probably heard the term “open-source.” The UNIX computer operating system (OS) may have been what popularized it. This OS is often used to operate large computers, but when you hear that UNIX was the basis for developing everyday systems such as the Mac OS, the iOS and Android operating systems for smartphones, and more, you realize that it's quite a ubiquitous presence. UNIX was created as open-source, and it has been improved upon as an open-source system. With open-source design, technology is not walled off. Instead, anybody can use it, and through that use, it becomes updated to be more accessible to users. That is to say, it is a constantly evolving collection of wisdom. It perhaps bears a resemblance to an academic conference or research paper. When multiple researchers experiment and investigate matters concerning a mystery they want to shed light on, upon finding a solution, they announce it and share it in the form of a research paper. Even if it is only a partial discovery, this could lead to further experimentation or analysis from a different perspective, the verifications pile up, and the results lead to the next step. The key point is the accumulation. And what we must not forget is that the accomplishments do not yield any monetary compensation. You could say this is truly an effort to make the world a better place. At the heart of the spirit of the open-source approach is that there is no monopolization through patents or copyrights. The advantage of open-source design is that new knowledge is actively shared with other organizations, with the goal of expanding organizations having the same culture. As the scale grows, the open-source design has a stronger presence as a category and becomes more entrenched. That is to say, the open-source approach is effective at growing relevant communities, and in the new normal moving forward, this concept is worthy of our attention as it gains in prominence.

This is a complex subject, but open-source design is not exclusive to the realm of technology. It seems there are many people who are struggling with issues concerning daily diet due to the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders imposed under the coronavirus pandemic. They are unable to go to a restaurant and take-out establishments are limited in number. Many households are making the effort to cook at home, and some young people have started cooking for themselves for the first time. But no matter how good you get at cooking, the daily challenge of deciding what to eat remains. A person may only have a few dishes they are good at making, and the ingredients available may further limit the options. Eating the same thing every day gets old, and if your family members complain about it, then it becomes unbearable. Charismatic Michelin-starred chefs have stood up to rescue people from this predicament. Without regret, they are sharing restaurants' secret recipes on social media. Normally, recipes from a reputable restaurant would never leave the premises. Chefs spend years fine-tuning the flavor, then captivate customers because this specialty is only available at that restaurant. However, in the coronavirus pandemic, chefs have tossed away that guarded attitude. Chefs from France, the home of Michelin, and Italy have been sharing their proud recipes one after another for free.

Alexandre Mazzia, a two-star Michelin chef in Marseilles, on the Mediterranean coast, post recipes on social media as dishes people can make even if they're shut in at home. Christophe Bacquie, who has three Michelin stars, has started sharing recipes to help people with their cooking. He said it started when his wife convinced him to post his recipes for everybody on Instagram. As it turns out, markets have shut down and people are unable to obtain the ingredients they normally use. Under these circumstances, people are using whatever they have close at hand on the shelf or in the refrigerator to make original dishes. Therefore, the chefs are arranging menus one can easily reproduce at home after studying the recipe. The reception has been very positive because it seems like cooking people can keep on doing.

via Instagram/@alexandremazzia

Of course, the same kind of things are happening in Japan, too. Shusaku Toba is a chef at one-star Michelin restaurant Sio in Tokyo's Yoyogi Uehara district. With business down at the restaurant due to the coronavirus pandemic, he has been doing something that until now was unfathomable: selling banh mi sandwiches and Japanese bento boxes as affordable take-out dishes. While trying something new, to do something more helpful, Toba has been relearning dishes that the restaurant normally does not offer – such as karaage fried chicken, yakisoba fried noodles, and spaghetti napolitan – and sharing the recipes and cooking tips online. Furthermore, he has been teaching ideas on to put in a little extra effort to make an even more delicious meal out of baked goods and other food from convenience stores that people often bought when the Japanese government was asking residents to stay at home. Since the information appears on Twitter, he has to think hard about how he can be concise enough for 140 characters. Toba is being meticulous about everything, including how he delivers his message.These initiatives seem to be experiences for these first-rate chefs. For a chef who is particular about fine dining, coming up with recipe ideas to enjoy at home may seem like a challenge they would normally not give the time of day. And yet all the chefs sharing their recipes say this has been a good experience and that they want to keep doing it in the future. This sort of open-source activity of making one's knowledge public will someday come back and pay a return.

Meanwhile, let's examine an open-source dish offered to office workers. Everyone who is experienced working at home knows that there are many pros and cons. In particular, the people who were happy that they could work while relaxing at home have met some pitfalls. The largely unnoticed benefit one may enjoy from working in an office is the work environment. Above all, the environment where one works – the desk and chair – is of major importance. People are already experiencing hazards to their health, such as stiff shoulders, back pains, and migraines, from spending long spells in environments where they are not accustomed to working as they did in the office: the dining table or a hard chair in a small room. Of course, in this environment, we should be prepared to purchase an appropriate desk and chair, but we don't know when the coronavirus will go away, and if it does, then we have to go back to the office... That being the expectation, many have been hesitant to rush out and buy pricey furniture. It was at this juncture that a Danish startup shared some useful information: the Stay the F*** Home Desk, a simple desk the company had developed. You may find the name a bit edgy, but the name comes from a hashtag expressing the stress of having to be cooped up in one's abode.

via Instagram/@stykka.labs

The desk can be quickly ordered online for delivery straight to your door. Assembly involves only folding three pieces of cardboard. We tried using the desk ourselves, and we feel it could work out nicely. As always, Scandinavian design feels stylish rather than cheap. The blueprints for the desk are in fact open-source, so instead of buying a kit, you can make your own with cardboard and a box cutter. You can adjust the blueprint to suit your needs, and you could even build a mini desk for children. The quality is so good, it even seems okay for everyday use. The British media has commended the company for its open-source offering in the pandemic, but the idea has always been well-established among Scandinavian furniture makers to share blueprints with everybody and help each other out in various ways. In fact, in Denmark there is an ingrained culture of hygge, which refers to good comfort and peacefulness.

You may have noticed Denmark often appearing in reports such as the United Nations' annual “World Happiness Report.” In fact, the country frequently ranks first, as it did in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Denmark also consistently places highly for globally scholastic aptitude, while labor productivity is fifth in the world despite shorter working hours. Japan, by the way, is 20th. Work in Denmark is compressed into a tight schedule of 37 hours a week, so in any event, the Danish work highly efficiently. Rather than managing labor according to time, employees focus on performing quality work so that they can enjoy a lifestyle where they spend their free time with children and family, dining with friends at home, doing some interior decorating. They may also purchase a summer house (typically a villa shared with other owners) for spending time with friends and family. For the Japanese, there is no end to the envy. Another thing worth noting is the high sales tax. However, the Danish reportedly are satisfied with this. Although the sales tax is a relatively steep 25%, in return, citizens receive free medical care and schooling, as well as a steady pension, so there don't seem to be any complains. Due to that security and peace of mind, most Danes do not save up for their old age. Because the future is uncertain, they enjoy the now and use money for enriching their lives. For example, some Danes are very much into the design of everyday items, such as furniture and dishware, as a way to enhance their daily lives. Based on their shared culture of enjoyment through spending meaningful time with people, the Danish do not spend so much on dining out or on clothing as they lead an enriched, fulfilling lifestyle. Open-source design may help foster that thinking and attitude.

In 2014, the Refold project created a desk of four pieces of cardboard that can transform into three shapes: standing, sitting, and carrying. It can be folded up in only two minutes, making for easy portability. Naturally, it is made from easily recyclable material, but it is also quite sturdy. Design concepts were applied to the Refold desk with the goal of helping to do something good. UNICEF was involved in this cardboard desk project to use it to improve learning environments for less fortunate children.

Recently, another Scandinavian furniture maker, IKEA of Sweden, has been making open-source efforts for society's sake: the ThisAbles project. For people with physical disabilities, even basic everyday movements, such as turning on a light or standing up from the couch, can be a mighty struggle. As a stylish and popular furniture maker, IKEA has many fans for its designs and reasonable prices. However, even IKEA sofas, with their universal design, are pieces of furniture which still pose difficulties for the physically disabled. Let's look at sofas as an example. IKEA sofas have soft, fluffy cushions where anybody can relax, a low height from the floor for comfortable television watching, and a design that lets a person sink deep into the sofa. People without disabilities have no problem using the sofa, as it is quite comfortable. However, what is it like from the perspective of a disabled person? The low seating surface and the cushions where the body tends to sink down mean that a disabled person can manage to sit on it with a bit of effort, but when trying to get up, the design impedes their movement. They are unable to stand up well, and there is nothing to grab onto with their hands for support. A disabled person may also experience a fear that they may become unable to move. Here's another example: closets. IKEA closets have little handles, as if an extra feature, that are very small to prevent clothes getting caught on them, as well as to make the room's appearance more pleasant. However, for a person with a disabled arm or fingers, simply opening the doors becomes quite a large strain. Of course, there exists furniture for disabled people that solves these defects, and it is certainly no secret. Compared to IKEA's products, though, this furniture's price is about three times higher. For the disabled, that's like pouring salt in the wound. To solve this problem, IKEA Israel took action with the ThisAbles project. They wondered whether IKEA furniture sold around the world could be made specifically for disabled people. While receiving feedback from disabled people, the company began designing and adding assistive devices to furniture sold by IKEA to make it easier to use, albeit in a subtle way. In addition to selling the furniture in stores, IKEA Israel came up with a way to distribute data for free through IKEA in 127 countries. Anyone with a 3D printer can get these assistive devices. Although IKEA furniture is designed to appeal to the widest range of people, it is actually mainly for nondisabled people. However, through minor adjustments, now it is accessible to a greater number of people, including the disabled. This is a very inclusive idea. However, IKEA did not only do something good for CSR purposes. The company thinks of disabled people as regular customers, too, and added these features as a way to make them happy. ThisAbles is involving disabled people in the company's regular business activities. This year, sales of IKEA-related products have increased by about 40%, demonstrating the expansion of a new market unlike the one before it.


Now let's take a look at a case that is noteworthy for another characteristic of open-source design: improvement through collective wisdom. Hemnet, Sweden's largest real estate portal site, analyzed access data for 86,000 properties listed on its site to create and sell the House of Clicks, which was tailored precisely to Swedish tastes.

The data behind the project comprised 200 million clicks by 2 million people. Sweden's population is currently a little over 10 million. That is to say, around 20% of Swedes participated in this project. It was an innovative and unheard-of idea to give actual form to the kind of house that site visitors aspire to by analyzing this massive trove of data. Exactly as the name of the project implies, it was truly a house born from clicks.

A pair of architects then took this data to produce a design. People have been talking about big data for several years now, but it had not yet been put to use by the architectural design sector. Of course, people surely have their own thoughts about their ideal house, vague as they may be. However, these desires are fragmentary, and while they have clear preference about the individual parts, when they try to generate a complete picture, it may end up being surprisingly inexact. The first step, then, was to explore what would be the ideal house for Swedes, based on the big data collected from the users. The designers derived characteristics ranging from average size and price to the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and how many stories there should be. Approaching the question in their own way of what a Swedish house should be like, they extracted two concepts: a redwood cottage, and a functionalistic white box. These ideas were then incorporated into the design. The exact specifications ended up being a slightly unique structure with one-and-a-half floors, a spacious 120 m3 of floor space, three bedrooms, a soaring living room, and a rooftop terrace. The architects produced design drawings which showed a house that appears very open. Furthermore, the space on the rooftop terrace has a barrier to block the wind and maintain privacy, providing a place to get some sun, even in a residential area with no space for a yard. The construction materials are wood, and although the outward appearance is similar to a cargo container, it was painted with a reddish hue like a traditional Swedish cottage.

People normally don't like to copy others. We tend to feel embarrassed in situations where we are just like other people, such as wearing the same clothes are doing the same activity. However, this house is the ideal one which people have been subconsciously striving for. It certainly has its appeal. When this project was covered by domestic and foreign media, it attracted major attention for being a new type of construction, and in only a few weeks, 600 advance orders had already been placed from countries around the world. In addition, the website was accessed by over 460,000 users from 187 countries.

In fact, Homnet's goal was to obtain new users who had never visited the site before. This campaign started out with thinking about how the site could utilize its top market position to maintain that position. In Sweden, if somebody is going to buy a house, the first site they visit is Homnet. Despite such a dominant presence, the company was wary that another, unique property company could apply a new approach, thus putting that position in danger. The question was how they could take advantage of their current position to make themselves stronger. They believed the answer was to utilize what in their possession made them distinctive, which was a massive amount of data. They then needed to demonstrate this advantage to people in a clearly understandable form. The way to visualize that became this House of Clicks.

The House Of Clicks

Examining these cases reminds one of the phrase “give-and-take.” It means providing something and receiving something in return, or offering something in return for something that you have been given. It is a relationship of equal mutual aid. Neither side loses anything, so it is a technique for sustaining long-lasting, positive interpersonal relationships. The open-source approach shares knowledge and increases the number of people using it so as to expand the community and establish a category. Furthermore, because everybody updates that knowledge, it is cultivated into a better form of itself. You could call it the expression of accomplishing something by truly connecting the empathy throughout society. The essence of public relations, or PR, is building positive relationships or accomplishing things by involving the entire public in an empathetic space. That perspective and idea will be essential to communication in the future.