Fixing the World through Open Design - Anthony Quinn

In my convoluted role as educator, designer, maker and writer, I have been slowly watching an evolution within design practice. This view has grown out of piecing together clues, including Fixperts, Sugru and Faraworkshop, like one of those super cool, overly taciturn Scandinavian detectives. 

The final piece in the puzzle arrived approximately a year ago. My students on the BA Ceramic Design course at Central Saint Martins were in open revolt over an Intellectual Property agreement written by the University’s lawyers to protect them in a live project with clients. In the furore that followed it dawned on me that the problem was not the fine detail committed to print, but the fundamental premise that in an art school-client collaboration the client gets first refusal. This refers to the exclusivity period that the clients get in relation to the students’ work whilst deciding whether to develop it or not. The students were more interested in sharing their ideas via twitter, facebook or blogs than waiting to see if the client will actually take on their idea. In reflecting on this storm in a teacup I realised that this small act of fury represented a much bigger, more profound issue. 

The traditional premise of design education is based on a commercial paradigm: students are taught the skills of the profession with the intention of moving into that profession upon graduation. My hypothesis is this: what art schools think the students want does not actually reflect the sensibilities of a new generation of designers. This mismatch in intentions prompted the following enquiry.  As you’ll see below, this article is something of a personal positioning exercise: I don’t profess to have all the answers but I do have a number of observations, which have resulted in a lot of questions.

“Who owns the ideas?” – Paul Micklethwaite

In this blog I want to explore two interrelated themes in the Fixperts story thus far: ownership of the ‘fixes’ (the outcomes of the collaborations), and their potential wider applicability beyond the collaboration through which they were generated. These two themes are related because if a fix is deemed to be successful, thoughts quickly turn to if and how it might be applied to other users and other scenarios.

Deception in Fixing - Héloïse Parke

When I first set about putting down some opening remarks about Readable Objects, the exhibition that we opened recently at The Aram Gallery, I found myself consistently getting tongue-tied.  Whilst words like ‘fix’ and ‘repair’ have taken on a new lease of life of late in a design context, they just didn’t seem the right fit for the work of Tomorrow’s Past. 

Tomorrow’s Past, nine of whose members exhibit in Readable Objects, are an international collective of bookbinders who deal with the conservation of damaged books. As a group of like-minded individuals they have a manifesto which states that the books they select for rebinding must have been printed before 1900 and must come to them in a state of distress: casing lost, stitching unravelling or fraying, pages nibbled or waterlogged, or the text block left vulnerable. Tomorrow’s Past select books which have been neglected.   

12 weeks, 18 participants , 7.5 projects: Fixperts in 10 Points - Marc Ligos and Diego Ramos

When you knock at the door of a design school with the proposal of making a workshop they normally look at you with an odd expression and say they’ll get back to you.

When you knock at a design school’s door with the proposal of making a Fixperts workshop however, they look at you with a special twinkle in their eyes and say: ok, when do we start?

It all started in April 2013 when we got study coordinators at Elisava, a design and engineering school in Barcelona excited enough about our proposal to invite us to present our idea for a Fixperts workshop to interested students.  What follows is our version of what happened, in ten easy points:

Warm Smiles: A FixPartner’s Perspective - Jade de Robles Rossdale

One of the beauties of Fixperts is seeing the FixPartner’s face light up when given the much-awaited final prototype. The video produced at the end sums up the process and the experience of Fixperts.  We get to see the project in a new way, seeing how the relationship evolved, both literally and emotionally, between the FixPartner and the Fixpert. But what if at one point in this project the FixPartner doesn’t want to collaborate? 

Fixing as a Way of Resisting - Ravid Rovner


It was a turning point in the history of resistance to economic injustice. The first to lose their jobs were textile artisans, replaced with the newly industrialized looms and frames. A small group of them assembled and started to invade the factories, destroy machinery and burn some factories down. The group named themselves "luddites", after Ned Ludd, a young man who allegedly destroyed a stocking frame in an act of madness, about thirty years earlier. In a few months, the protest spread throughout England. Large groups of Luddites trained in the outskirts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, and attacked at night: they burned factories down and smashed the machines. In some of the attacks more then a hundred men participated.

Repair is Beautiful - Paulo Goldstein

Most broken things can be fixed, once you understand the problem. The problem might be simple, complicated or even complex, but some how it can be fixed.
The same way is true of solutions: these might be simple, complicated or complex - it all depends on what causes the problem and what is behind the it.

Everyday repair - Stephen Knott

The Japanese practice of kintsugi – gluing together pieces of a broken vessel with (gold) materials that emphasise the skilful nature of the repair – seems to epitomise the contemporary designer or artist’s approach to the task of repair. It is loud, communicable, and makes you aware of the hard work that went into solving the problem, much like Bouke de Vries’s work below.

Brunel Fixperts - Dr Hua Dong and Rob Phillips

Brunel Fixperts exhibition took place on the 18th April, showcasing 16 projects, ranging from an ipad manual for a 93-year old deaf person, to a sheep snacker that distributes sheep food in equal intervals automatically, for a farmer in Leicestershire.

These projects engaged 102 first-year design students (BA Industrial Design and Technology, BSc Product Design, and BSc Product Design Engineering) at Brunel University, with support from Dr Hua Dong, Senior Lecturer, Rob Phillips, guest lecturer, and Daniel Charny, Fixperts Co Director. The project was run over a period of six weeks, and students worked in teams of 5-7, with fix partners from the local community or family/friends network.

Fix Fix Fix - Glenn Adamson

In 2011, the V&A mounted the exhibition Power of Making, curated by Daniel Charny and organized in collaboration with the Crafts Council. The premise of the show was simple: to build a contemporary cabinet of curiosities showcasing skillful, innovative, and ingenious making. Charny packed 108 objects into a gallery normally used to show 40 or 50; and though few of the things on view had significant name-recognition (there was no celebrity factor here), the exhibition was one of the most popular in the museum’s history.