Open Source Design: Camel or Unicorn?

Session Title

Open Source Design: Camel or Unicorn?


Tom Igoe/NYU

Session Type: Presentation

Open source development has taken hold in software design, and is beginning to show up in electronics hardware design as well.  Thus far, however, open source has been limited mainly to the engineering side of development.  Open source tools for design tend to be abysmal, largely because there are no designers working on them. And open source has not made a blip on consumer-facing issues like licensing, warranties, and customer support.  Should it?  What impacts could it have, and how can the design community help to bring that about?  How does the open source “democratic project development” model fly in design?  In this session,  I’ll examine some current examples of how open source is expanding beyond software, and discuss ways in which is might continue to do so.


Tom Igoe is an Associate Arts Professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).  Coming from a background in theatre lighting design, he teaches courses and workshops in physical computing and networking, exploring ways to allow digital technologies to sense and respond to a wider range of human physical expression. Current research focuses on ecologically sustainable practices in technology development and how open hardware development can contribute to that.

Igoe has written two books on physical computing: Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, co-authored with Dan O’Sullivan, and Making Things Talk. Both have been adopted by digital art and design programs around the world. He is a regular contributor to MAKE magazine on the subject as well. He is also a member of the core development team of Arduino, an open source microcontroller environment built for non-technicians. He has consulted for The American Museum of the Moving Image, EAR Studio, Diller + Scofidio Architects, Eos Orchestra, HBO, and others. He is a collaborator on the Arduino open source microcontroller project. He is currently realizing a lifelong dream to work with monkeys as well.