Artefact Café is a project by Horizon Digital Economy Research. It is a joint project between University of Nottingham and Brunel University.

The Artefact Cafe project researches the possibilities that could enable people to design and create their own products and artefacts. We are examining the effectiveness of currently available digital and fabrication technologies for the potential of creating a mini-revolution in user-led open design and the ways in which products and services are designed and consumed.

We are investigating the facilitation process in terms of technology, knowledge, tools and resources that would enable people to successfully conceive and produce their own designs. As well as looking at the now widely available and accessible digital media and tools including Web 2.0 that have increased the level of engagement consumers have in determining exactly what they are consuming.

While acknowledging that people not only readily produce content for self-expression but also publicly share their views and ideas with others, there is now a new generation that are pro-active in what and how they produce and or consume information, products and services. In the context of product design, companies are also now recognizing the wisdom of the crowd and increasingly seek to tap into this global knowledge base as well as local insights through crowdsourcing and or open sourcing strategy.

The major aim of the project is to access the feasibility of creating locally focused ìArtefact CafÈsî that would serve as open access decentralised fabrication hubs, connected through a shared open design and knowledge platform. We will also examine the social and economic implications that these would bring about.

This Blog is intended as a space to share some of the research material we are looking into.



  1. philipS.

    Just a couple of notes…
    You are mistaken about the AA show in 2009. I curated it myself taking it to the AA after discussions with graphic art director Zak Kyes. Martino Gamper made a contribution to the show as he designed a new chair along with other designers and artists who made pieces in tribute to the original idea behind Enzo’s project.
    Secondly it is a greatly misunderstood project. It was a reaction to the growing limitations of teh Italian industry model. During a very successful period involving a generation of exceptional visionary designers from which Italy is still trading today Mari found himself in the middle of a success nightmare with obscene expectations of manfacturers presuming that designers would be happy to provide them with rivers of ideas to keep their corrupt factories churning out high priced crap. In Autoprog. he threw his hands up and said NO, MORE – whats going on here! Here’s some tables, some chairs, everything you need – go and make them, learn something about your world, forget black laquered chipboard for a moment…here, its free. It was a gesture of exasperation and a very intelligent one. As to it not being on the internet – its out there and available in a very affordable and well produced honest format. The internet has many linitations – I suggest you spend less time on it.
    I would like to emphasise that the project was far more politically charged and relevant than the concept of open source suggests.

    • Thank you for your feedback, my apologies for the lack of diligent research, I have now amended the post.

      In Mari’s rejection of or reaction to (designers in general or himself specifically) being a tool of manufacturers in catering to the burgeoning middle classes during the post war era, and in creating a range of furniture specifically catered toward those at the lower end of the income scale, you can see Mari’s political standpoint influenced by Marxist philosophy.

      Open Source or Open Design is muddy, there are vast numbers of people doing a huge array of projects for widely differing motives. So it is hard to draw direct parallels to the work of one man, but the fundamental point is the embracing of self design and self making, it is as Massimo Banzi says in his TED talk – How Arduino is open sourcing imagination – it’s about “scratching your own itch”

      The people who took up the Autoprog. instructions were doing just that, there was something they needed or wanted and where happy to do it themselves. Their actions most probably weren’t politically or idealistically motivated even if Mari’s were. Once something is out there, once it’s open the intent of the originator can be overshadowed.

      The internet isn’t the only place to share information, but if you want a means to distribute knowledge at an incredibly low cost, to globally dispersed people with the means for them to copy it and pass it on then that is where you do it. I’m not suggesting it should solely reside there but it is an opportunity not to miss, unless that is, that wasn’t the intention.

      Thanks again for the comment…..james t

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