RSA Dcsign k Socicty.

Iinding rhc rrurh in sysrcms:
in pruisc of dcsign·hucking by Scott Burnham. In i¤;i
CaIifornian john Drapcr rcccivcd a phonc caII froma fricnd,
informing himof a fascinating discovcry. A toy whistIc
packagcd in boxcs of Captain Crunch ccrcaI couId, whcn
bIown, cmit a pcrfcct :6oo hcrtz pitch. Thc rcIcvancc of this
was Iost on Drapcr untiI his fricnd cxpIaincd that this was
thc cxact frcqucncy rcquircd to trick thc phonc cxchangc
into thinking that thc phonc cmitting this tonc was an
opcrator, thus cnabIing thc pcrson to makc caIIs anywhcrc
in thc worId frcc of chargc. AII you nccdcd to do was diaI
a ccrtain numbcr and bIowthc whistIc into thc mouthpiccc
of thc phonc, and scconds Iatcr communicating with
thc rcst of thc worId for frcc was IitcraIIy at your fingcrtips.
Thc worId’s phonc nctworks had just bccn hackcd.
ScvcraI months aftcr Icarning of thc tcIcphonc
frcqucncy hack, Drapcr wcnt on to buiId ‘bIuc boxcs’,
smaII dcviccs that mimickcd muItipIc phonc frcqucncics
to cxpand thc rcach and functionaIity of thc phonc systcm
hack. At thc hcight of his infamous ‘phonc phrcaking’
strcak, as it was known, Isquirc magazinc ran an articIc
fcaturing his cxpIoits.
A univcrsity studcnt namcd Stcvc Wozniak rcad thc
articIc, and contactcd Drapcr, convincing himto comc
to Wozniak’s dormroomto tcach himand a fricnd morc
about bIuc boxcs. Drapcr tutorcd thcmon thc tcchniqucs
to crcatc thc dcviccs and aItcr cxisting tcchnoIogics to
hack thc phonc systcm. Wozniak crcdits this phasc as
bcing instrumcntaI in his carccr of tcchnoIogy innovation,
as did his fricnd who joincd himin thc tutoring scssions,
Stcvc jobs. IucIIcd and fundcd by crcating and scIIing
thc phonc hacking bIuc boxcs, Wozniak and jobs startcd
LarIicr this ycar wc Iaunchcd a ncwaccount of dcsign
for thc Þsn: You knowmorc rhun you rhink you do:
dcsign us rcsourccfuIncss und scIf·rcIiuncc. It dcscribcd
thc big gap that industriaI progrcss and Modcrnism
opcncd up bctwccn thc profcssionaI provision of
dcsign and our common compctcncc and rcadincss
to scc and soIvc thc probIcms around us. Our two·foId
contcntion is that wc nccd a ncwaccommodation
bctwccn profcssionaI dcsigncrs and cvcryonc cIsc,
and that dcsign is uniqucIy abIc to makc cvcryonc
– pcopIc and communitics – morc rcsourccfuI.
This is not an anti·profcssionaI stancc, mcrcIy
an acknowIcdgcmcnt that thcrc is morc dcsign
opportunity in thc worId – a grcatcr voIumc and varicty
of probIcms to bc soIvcd – than wiII cvcr bc addrcsscd
by profcssionaI dcsigncrs aIonc. Iurthcrmorc sincc
most individuaIs arc not in a position to pay for thc
scrviccs of a dcsigncr, thcy wouId do wcII to acquirc
somc of thc habits, insights and proccsscs that
dcsigncrs usc.
Thc word “hacking”, which originaIIy dcnotcd
brazcn trcspasscs into cIoscd systcms of cIcctronic
communication, incrcasingIy invokcs a broadcr rangc
of stunts and sabotagcs of sccurity and convcntion.
It has aIso cntcrcd thc argot of dcsign criticism.
Thc stcrcotypicaI dcsigncr – passionatcIy authcntic,
famousIy unbcnding and aIways in bIack – is ncwIy
vuIncrabIc to thc intcrfcrcncc of amatcurs. Thc
hard·won tryst bctwccn dcsigncr, manufacturcr and
intcIIcctuaI propcrty rights, Iikcwisc, has fcwdcfcnccs
against thc opcn·sourcc spirit and an intcrnct whcrcin
no sccrcts arc hid. Thc bravc oncs cmbracc it. WhiIc
chccrfuI dcsign jam·scssions of profcssionaI and
amatcur go on in citics and dcsign fcstivaIs aII ovcr thc
dcvcIopcd worId, nothing changcs in thc favcIas and
ruraI viIIagcs whcrc ncccssity has aIways bccn thc
mothcr of invcntion.
Hacking is thc intcrfcrcncc in, or corruption
of, thc authorship of dcsigncrs and manufacturcrs,
usuaIIy by amatcurs. It happcns right thcrc in thc
spacc bctwccn thc profcssionaI and thc ordinary
citizcn that thc Þsn is intcrcstcd in. So wc askcd Scott
Burnham: is dcsign·hacking mcrcIy an introvcrtcd
chaptcr in thc history of dcsign, or docs it rcvcaI civic
ingcnuity and rcsourccfuIncss that a ccntury and a haIf
of industriaIIy·fcd consumcrismhavc maskcd? His
answcr pcrsuasivcIy dcscribcs thc cvoIution of hacking
fromthc digitaI to thc anaIoguc worId and thcncc,
with prcgnant iIIustration, into thc civic rcaImof
strccts and municipaI rcguIations.
McanwhiIc hcrc’s my own thought: our
compctcncc in making things as individuaIs, and
in manufacturing as a nation, is grcatIy rcduccd
and unIikcIy to bc rcstorcd soon. Most of us don’t
makc anything morc compIcx than an appIc pic from
scratch, fromrawcomponcnts, and Iack, thcrcforc,
thc visccraI scnsc of dcsign that our prc·industriaI
and wartimc forcbcars must havc had. Is hacking
thc ncwmaking |aIong with its cIosc cousin, rcpair)?
In thc waning of common hand·craft, might wc
scttIc for hacking instcad?
ImiIy CumpbcII
Dircctor of Dcsign, Þsn
Octobcr :oo¤
( Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
a smaII company caIIcd AppIc Computcrs and sct up shop in a garagc
to start work on thcir ncxt ‘box’ – onc that wouId havc far morc impact
on thc worId – thc pcrsonaI computcr.
If you tracc thc iPhonc, thc iPod, thc Mac and thc first pcrsonaI
computcr back to thcir sourcc, you’II find a hackcr.
In any cxpIoration of hacking, thcrc is first a nccd to cIarify thc
tcrm. Thc word ‘hackcr’ has a ccrtain infamy in contcmporary cuIturc,
bcaring rcsponsibiIity for sccurity brcachcs and onIinc intrusions.
As Lric Raymond writcs in his tcxt Howro Bccomc u Huckcr, cIarification
is important.
Thc practitioncrs rcprcscnting thc darkcr sidc of thc
tcrm, says Raymond, “IoudIy caII thcmscIvcs hackcrs, but arcn’t…
RcaI hackcrs caII thcsc pcopIc ‘crackcrs’ and want nothing to do with
thcm…Bcing abIc to brcak sccurity docsn’t makc you a hackcr any
morc than hotwiring cars makcs you an automotivc cnginccr.”
In short: “hackcrs buiId things, crackcrs brcak thcm.”
But hacking is rcaIIy just today’s namc for thc pcrsonaI crcativc
spirit that has aIways undcrpinncd human ingcnuity. Thc farmcr
rcworking a piccc of machincry to pcrforma diffcrcnt function than
it was originaIIy dcsigncd for, or thc houscwifc cutting thc bottomof
a pIastic bottIc to makc it into a scoop: hacking is our rcsponsc whcn
thc rcsourccs at hand comc up short.
It is onIy rcccntIy that thc word has cmcrgcd as a coIIcctivc tcrm
for a pcrsonaI rcsponsc to, and triumph ovcr, thc Iimitations of our
physicaI worId. Thc tcrmitscIf was coincd by thc hobbyists who brought
computcrs out of thcir acadcmic origins and in thc proccss dctcrmincd
that thc cxisting tooIs and systcms wcrcn’t sufficicnt for thcir nccds,
so sct about to makc thc systcms morc intcrcsting and uscfuI.
Hacking and tcchnoIogicaI innovation havc a Iong and mutuaIIy
bcncficiaI cat·and·mousc history. Thc first softwarc companics gavc
computcr uscrs thc frccdomto instaII various componcnts and to
customisc thc scttings, but if you wantcd to go dccpcr into thc systcm
to aItcr thc basic functions and foundation of thc softwarc or thc
systcm, you hit a waII. Somc wcnt about finding acccss points that
wouId aIIowcntry to thc corc of thc systcmand cnabIc aItcrnativc
functions to bc programmcd in. Othcrs sct about to buiId ‘opcn sourcc’
systcms to aIIowfuII transparcncy and acccss to thc systcm. Thc Iinux
opcrativc systcm, thc Apachc wcb scrvcr |which runs thc majority
of thc worId’s wcbsitcs), thc Iircfox browscr and numcrous othcr
appIications arc thc rcsuIts of thc opcn sourcc movcmcnt, born
of thc hackcr’s dcsirc for acccss and pcrmission.
As thc opcn sourcc movcmcnt wovc innovation and opcnncss
into thc fabric of thc intcrnct, thc rapid growth of homc computing and
pcrsonaI softwarc madc it possibIc to manipuIatc cxisting songs, vidcos,
imagcs and cvcn (o dcsign schcmatics with casc. Whcn thc tooIs which
wcrc oncc thc cxcIusivc domain of profcssionaIs wcrc put in thc hands
of miIIions of individuaI uscrs and consumcrs, cvcry twcak of a song or
manipuIation of a photograph pIantcd thc abiIity to aItcr thc acsthctics
of thc worId a bit dccpcr.
i. Isquirc Magazinc, Octobcr i¤;i
:. Howro bc u Huckcr by Lric Ray·
mond, Scc`csr/faqs/
± Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
WhiIc dcsktop appIications and Wcb :.o scrviccs wcrc giving
us unparaIIcIcd mcans to modify and diffcrcntiatc our digitaI worId,
our physicaI or anaIoguc worId of products and scrviccs was rcaching
a saturation point of samcncss, as rctaiI chains, big box storcs and
gIobaIiscd brands proIifcratcd.
Companics and rctaiIcrs rcspondcd by making it casicr for
consumcrs to customisc thcir products at thc point of purchasc,
but within sct Iimitations. Hcnry Iord jokcd that pcopIc couId havc
any coIour car thcy Iikcd, as Iong as it was bIack. Thc jokc has Iastcd
wcII, as rctaiIcrs continuc to boast of thc customcrs’ abiIity to taiIor
products to thcir nccds – as Iong as thcir dcsircs arc among a
spccific sct of options.
It is within this cIimatc that hacking has cvoIvcd fromthc softwarc
to thc hardwarc of our Iivcs. Mukc magazinc, a Icading proponcnt
of oiv tcchnoIogy and hacking mcthodoIogics givcs thc consumcr
a simpIc tcst to gaugc thc actuaI dcgrcc to which thcy arc in controI:
“If you can’t opcn it, you don’t own it.”
If rctaiI and manufacturing’s rcsponsc to commcrciaI samcncss
is to offcr a Iimitcd rangc of customisation choiccs, thcn hacking
is thc individuaI’s rcsponsc: circumvcnting thosc Iimitations and
crcating ncwoptions on onc’s own tcrms. Whcn this hacking cthos
is appIicd to our rcIationship with dcsign, it has a morc fundamcntaI
chargc – a rcturn to dcsign as a dircct rcsponsc to rcaI probIcms
faccd by rcaI pcopIc.
In i¤6¤ Victor Papanck argucd that thc profcssionaIisation
of dcsign had scparatcd it fromthc “rcaI worId”.
Dcsign cannot
bc scparatcd fromcvcryday Iifc, hc wrotc, and by cIcvating its traincd
practitioncrs as profcssionaIs fromthosc who arc not so traincd
|amatcurs), dcsign bcgins to rcfcrcncc onIy itscIf, and faiIs to
addrcss rcaI probIcms faccd by rcaI pcopIc. In this proccss of profcs·
sionaIisation, triaI·and·crror crcativity has bccn Iost. Hacking puts
it back into thc cquation.
Hacking is about ovcrcoming thc Iimitations of an cxisting objcct,
scrvicc or systcmwhich was sct for onc purposc, and finding an acccss
point, intcIIcctuaIIy or physicaIIy, whcrc its originaI function can bc
cxpandcd, aItcrcd, or improvcd to scrvc a ncwpurposc or soIvc a
probIcm. Hacking is not about acsthctics as much as purposc – thc
uItimatc union of formand function.
“Hackcrs do what thcy do…”, says rcscarchcr juIian BIccckcr of thc
Ncar Iuturc Iaboratory, “not ncccssariIy bccausc thcy arc dcsigning
somcthing in thc scnsc of discipIincd dcsign. Thcy arc making a thing
– and oftcn that thing docsn’t Iook finishcd, which is aImost part of thc
hacking scnsibiIity…Bringing hacking to dcsign can bc unstabIc, but
what hacking practiccs can tcach arc important – rapid construction,
an apprcciation and undcrstanding of things that go bcIowthc surfacc
fcaturcs and bringing functionaIity into thc dcsign proccss.”
Incrcascd activity surrounding dcsign and hacking has spawncd a
smaII industry of wcbsitcs and pubIications cngaging with this growing
±. mnxr: Owncr’s ManuaI by
“Mistcr jaIopy” Scc www.makczinc.
¸. Papanck, Victor |i¤;i). Ðcsign
for rhc RcuI WorId: Humun IcoIogy
und SociuI Chungc, NcwYork,
Panthcon Books. issr o·(¤±·±;o(6·:.
6. Intcrvicwvia LmaiI, :8 juIy :oo¤
¸ Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
trcnd. Rcudymudc magazinc iIIustratcs thc craft and ingcnuity of thc
individuaI as hc or shc gocs about various homc improvcmcnts using
rc·uscd and rc·purposcd matcriaI, whiIc has bccomc
thc dc·fucro rcpository for instructions, vidcos and advicc on howto
hack aImost anything onc cncountcrs in daiIy Iifc. Mukc magazinc
has takcn thc hackcr’s crccd as a caII to action. Its manifcsto, “Thc
Makcr’s BiII of Rights”, caIIs on manufacturcrs to foIIowsuch hackabIc
principIcs as “if it snaps shut, it shaII snap opcn”, and “scrcws arc
bcttcr than gIucs”.
Onc of thc most iconic projccts to cmcrgc fromhacking’s infusion
into thc worId of dcsign is thc gIobaI ixrn Huckcr initiativc. ixrn Huckcr
is an unofficiaI nctwork of dcsign hackcrs who sharc a passion for
rcworking ixrn products on thcir own tcrms and crcating dcsigns
ixrn ncvcr pIanncd. AsscmbIing thc flat·packcd furniturc of onc of thc
worId’s most ubiquitous contcmporary dcsign brands and intcrprcting
thc Ianguagc·ncutraI instructions arc a ritc of passagc of any ncw
apartmcnt dwcIIcr or univcrsity studcnt. But whur if, comcs thc ixrn
Huckcr projcct, you usscmbIcd rhc furnirurc in u diffcrcnr wuy rhun
ixrn rcIIs you?
This simpIc qucstion has birthcd thousands of ncwcrcations
fromixrn’s sct rangc of products. A Ijus bookshcIf is asscmbIcd
‘aItcrnativcIy’ fromthc instructions to makc a pct’s fccding and
watcring station. Kitchcn units arc rc·asscmbIcd to bccomc garagc
workshop stations. SaIad tongs arc fastcncd togcthcr to bccomc Iight
fixturcs, and dcsks bccomc chiIdrcn’s pIaypcns. Oftcn thc hackcrs wiII
takc thc timc to documcnt thc stcps nccdcd to imitatc thcir hacks and
makc thcmavaiIabIc onIinc, cnabIing an cntirc aItcrnativc product
Iinc to run paraIIcI to thc onc in thc cataIoguc.
ixrn Huckcr has bccomc somcthing of a univcrsaI iIIustration
of thc intcrpIay bctwccn hacking and dcsign – ignorc thc issucd
instructions and dcvisc your own. As wcII as thc pcrsonaI pIcasurc
of making a uniquc or idiosyncratic product, thcrc is an intcIIcctuaI
chaIIcngc in thoroughIy undcrstanding thc intcndcd ruIcs of thc
dcsigncd objcct, thcn crcating your own vcrsion according to your own
ruIcs. Phonc hackcr Drapcr sharcd this motivation. Though viIificd
by thc mcdia as thc man who aImost brought down Amcrica’s phonc
systcmin thc i¤;os, that was ncvcr thc intcntion of his hacks. Ior
him, “it was about taking thc systcmapart, to makc thc thing bcttcr.
To makc it do bcttcr things. CooIcr things.”
Of coursc, both thc pIcasurc dcrivcd fromsubvcrting ixrn’s
instructions and thc dcsirc for a systcmto do ‘cooIcr things’ comc
froma fairIy priviIcgcd pcrspcctivc. Ior most of thc worId, things which
function in ‘cooIcr’ ways arc a drcamscvcraI stcps bcyond immcdiatc
ncccssity. In dcvcIoping nations in particuIar, function and ncccssity
arc thc driving principIcs, usuaIIy corrcsponding to a Iimitcd pooI
of rcsourccs and matcriaIs to work with.
Thc mobiIc phonc has bccomc thc Swiss Army knifc of thc
dcvcIoping worId, an csscntiaI tooI for conducting aImost any form
;. Discovcry ChanncI Documcn·
tary, “Thc History of Hacking”.
6 Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
of busincss. Yct in cmcrging markcts and nations, thc stock suppIy
of phoncs arc of a much Iowcr functionaIity than thc uscrs rcquirc.
In rcsponsc, a paraIIcI industry of informaI IocaI ‘rcpair’ shops has
cmcrgcd to hack upgradcd functions and scrviccs into thc avaiIabIc
phoncs. Thc dcfinition of rcpair is cxtcndcd fromfixing somcthing
that is brokcn, to rcpairing its Iimitations.
Nokia’s jan Chipchasc has spcnt ycars rcscarching mobiIc phonc
usc in citics throughout China, Africa, and India Iooking at thc ways in
which pcopIc thcrc usc and modify thcir mobiIc phoncs bcyond thcir
originaI spccification. Iar outsidc thc rcach of officiaI scrvicc ccntrcs
and saIcs officcs, Chipchasc cncountcrs mobiIc phonc markcts that
“strctch across numbcrs of strccts and shopping arcadcs and incIudcs
hundrcds of smaII shops and staIIs”.
With ncccssity as thc drivcr, thc rcpair cuIturc has morphcd into
a cuIturc of ‘strcct hacks’, rcpairing not what is brokcn, but what thc
phonc Iacks. Ancicnt phoncs that wouId havc bccn discardcd ycars
ago by most in thc Wcst Icavc thc rcpair shops with duaI sim card sIots
soIdcrcd into switch nctworks at wiII, or a rcworkcd handsct with ncw
kcys for incrcascd functionaIity or Ianguagc accommodation.
Rathcr than going aftcr thc strcct hackcrs with Iawycrs or scnding
in thc poIicc with bin bags, Nokia’s rcsponsc to thc strcct hacks and
rcpair cuIturcs has bccn cxccptionaI: Icarn fromthcm. Chipchasc’s
ycars of rcscarch in somc of thc most rcmotc citics, sIums and favcIas
bcars witncss to this stratcgy. Of grcatcr tcstimony is thc fact that
Nokia dcvcIopcd a conccpt phonc in :oo8, thc ‘Rcmadc’, using rccycIcd
matcriaIs and bascd on thc rcscarch and inspiration gaincd from
strcct·IcvcI innovation and dcvcIoping worId uscrs.
“What can wc Icarn frominformaI rcpair cuIturcs?” asks Chipchasc.
“Givcn thc bcncfit to ‘bottomof thc pyramid’ consumcrs, arc thcrc
cIcmcnts of thc rcpair ccosystcmthat can bc cxportcd to othcr cuIturcs?
Can thc samc skiIIs bc appIicd to othcr parts of thc vaIuc chain? Givcn
thc rangc of rcsourccs and skiIIs avaiIabIc, what wouId it takc to turn
cuIturcs of rcpair into cuIturcs of innovation?”
In a rcccnt 1ro TaIk, Chipchasc summcd up his rcscarch on strcct
rcpair and hack cuIturc in a mcssagc to thc dcsign worId: “if you’rc
smart, you’II bc obscrving strcct innovation and appIying this to inform
and infusc what and howyou dcsign.”
Of cquaI utiIitarian vaIuc to thc mobiIc phonc in dcvcIoping
rcgions is thc bicycIc. A fundamcntaI tooI for transportation, commcrcc,
industry, and cvcn cncrgy production, thc bicycIc has its own cquaIIy
divcrsc history of hacks and modifications. Dccadcs of hacking and
modifications to thc bicycIc arc cmbcddcd in that stapIc of Wcstcrn
Icisurc and sporting cuIturc, thc mountain bikc.
In thc i¤6os and ;os, wcckcnd cycIists bcgan vcnturing off thc
pavcd roadways on thc thin framcs and tyrcs of thcir road bikcs,
quickIy finding thcy wcrc of IittIc usc and short Iifcspan off·road. SIowIy
and stcadiIy ovcr thc ycars, in garagcs and backyards, bicycIc framcs
wcrc rcconfigurcd and rc·wcIdcd, supports addcd, tyrcs cnIargcd and
“Whur scrs rhcsc Iocurions
upurr fromcirics in morc
‘cmcrgcd’ murkcrs? 4sidc
fromrhc scuIc of whur’s on
suIc rhcrc is u rhriving murkcr
for dcvicc rcpuir scrviccs
runging fromswupping our
componcnrs ro rc·soIdcring
circuir bourds ro rc·flushing
phoncs in u Iunguugc of your
choicc. Rcpuirs urc ofrcn
curricd our wirh IirrIc
morc rhun u scrcwdrivcr,
u roorhbrush (for cIcuning
conrucr poinrs) rhc righr
knowIcdgc und u flur surfucc
ro work on. Rcpuir munuuIs
(which uppcur ro bc rcvcrsc
cnginccrcd) urc uvuiIubIc,
wrirrcn in Hindi, IngIish
und Chincsc und cun cvcn
bc subscribcd ro, bur rhcrc is
IirrIc cvidcncc of rhcmbcing
ucrivcIy uscd. Insrcud muny
of rhc rcpuircrs rcIy on
informuI sociuI ncrworks ro
shurc knowIcdgc on common
fuuIrs, und rcpuir rcchniqucs.
Ir’s ofrcn cusicr ro pccr ovcr rhc
shouIdcr of u ncighbour rhun
opcn rhc munuuI irscIf…1hc
informuI rcpuir scrviccs rhur
urc offcrcd urc quirc simpIy
drivcn by ncccssiry.”
; Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
handIcbars rcshapcd, untiI in thc i¤8os thc currcnt hcarty but
commcrciaI mountain bikc cmcrgcd.
Thc diffcrcncc cmcrgcs again bctwccn thc ‘Icisurc’ hacks of thc
dcvcIopcd Wcst, and thc morc dircct improvisations of thc dcvcIoping
worId. Strcct vcndors in India, for cxampIc, havc twcakcd and aItcrcd thc
bicycIc into a sccmingIy infinitc numbcr of variations that havc IittIc to do
with sport, aIIowing thcmto turn a standard bicycIc into a muIti·functionaI
commcrciaI unit. HcIiumtanks arc wcIdcd to thc backs of bicycIcs
carrying baIIoons and party favours, griIIs arc attachcd to mobiIc food
vcndor bikcs, racks, shcIvcs and pIatforms arc wcIdcd onto structurcs
of Icathcr goods dcaIcrs, pot vcndors – thc Iist is Iong and growing.
As with Nokia‘s cmbracc of thc strcct phonc·hacking scctor, thc
strcct hacks on Indian bicycIcs arc stimuIating dcsign projccts in thc
dcvcIopcd worId. In :oo8, NcwDcIhi dcsigncr Gunjan Gupta Iaunchcd
thc ‘cycIcrccycIccycIc’ dcsign projcct as part of Lrbun IIuy in Amstcrdam
at thc Lxpcrimcnta dcsign bicnnaIc. Gupta instaIIcd a vcrsion of an
Indian bicycIc rcpair shop on thc strcct in Amstcrdam, inviting thc
bicycIc·obscsscd Dutch to modify thcir own bikcs in thc manncr of
India’s utiIitarian strcct vcndors.
Africa aIso has a Iong history of using modificd bicycIcs for tradc
and commcrcc with a rangc of ingcnuity on par with India. A ncwbrccd
of African hackcrs and innovators arc digging cvcn morc dccpIy into
thc functionaIity of thc bicycIc, gaining inspiration fromits rudimcntary
mcchanics for a rangc of uscs bcyond thc simpIc transportation function.
In Kcnya a mobiIc phonc charging station powcrcd by thc rotation
of thc tyrcs as it travcIs fromviIIagc to viIIagc was Iaunchcd this ycar.
In Tanzania, Bcrnard Kiwia crcatcd a “pcdaI powcrcd hacksawfor thc
disabIcd”, a watcr pump for his viIIagc and a driII prcss by using thc
pcddIc mcchanisms of bicycIcs.
Ior WiIIiamKamkwamba, a i± ycar·oId farmcr in MaIawi, thc bicycIc
scrvcd as an inspiring bascIinc dcsign for a projcct to bcncfit his cntirc
viIIagc. During a drought in :ooi, Kamkwamba’s famiIy hit hard timcs,
and hc spcnt his idIc timc in thc IocaI Iibrary, whcrc hc camc across a
book on windmiIIs and wind cncrgy. With nothing but thc picturcs in thc
book to guidc him, hc thcn visitcd a IocaI scrap yard to sourcc matcriaIs
that wouId roughIy scrvc thc function of thc windmiIIs parts – a tractor
fan, shock absorbcr, Þvc piping, and othcr componcnts.
Kamkwamba sct about asscmbIing thc parts with thc picturcs of
advanccd wind turbincs as a guidc, and at thc ccntrc of thc homc·madc
wind gcncrator was a bicycIc, providing thc framc of thc machinc and
an cfficicnt powcr transfcr mcchanism– thc pcdaIs, chain, and rcar
whccI of thc bikc.
Hacking mcthodoIogics havc bccn particuIarIy uscfuI in dcvcIoping
nations for incrcasing thc functionaIity of mobiIc phoncs and dcpIoying
thc bicycIc to scrvc othcr nccds. Thcy arc cquaIIy uscfuI in addrcssing
onc of thc mighticst and most impcnctrabIc systcms in Wcstcrn cuIturc
as wcII – thc intcrIinkcd systcmof municipaI rcguIations and town
pIanning proccsscs.
8. jan Chipchasc, “CuIturcs
of Rcpair, innovation” www.janchip·
i:. Ibid.
8 Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
In many ways, thc city itscIf is cmbIcmatic of thc tcnsion bctwccn
dictatcd usc and thc rcsourccfuIncss of thc hackcr. Thc physicaI
Iandscapc of thc city is dcIibcratcIy dcsigncd to bc a soIid, non·
maIIcabIc tcrrain of ordcr and structurc. BuiIdings, pavcmcnts, bridgcs
and waIIs shapc our movcmcnt and dcfinc our Iimitations. But as with
any structurcd systcm, its Iimitations can bccomc cataIysts for crcativity.
Lntcr skatcboardcrs, frccwhccI bikcrs, parkour/frccrunncrs, urban
cIimbcrs and cxpIorcrs. Thcsc arc thc frontIinc of urban hackcrs,
vicwing thc city as a IitcraI pIayground. Stair raiIings arc nowramps.
WaIIs arc baIancing bcams. Rooftops arc Iaunching pIatforms. This
brand of hackcr crcatcs an infinitc amount of spacc fromthc finitc
confincs of thc city. Thcy crcatc ncwpaths of travcI, invcnting ncw
possibiIitics and Iaycring ncwdimcnsions on thc cstabIishcd structurc
of thc city. Thc cxtcnsion of a hacking mcntaIity at work in thc modcrn
urban Iandscapc is cndIcss – graffiti artists using thc surfaccs of thc
city as a canvas and mcssagc board, strcct vcndors vicwing thc hcaviIy
traffickcd and tourist arcas of thc city as makcshift commcrciaI zoncs.
Hacking has nowgonc bcyond thcsc tcrrain trcspasscs to bcgin
addrcssing thc shortcomings of thc city’s systcms and proccsscs.
Thcrc arc obvious rcasons for thc ruIcs and rcguIations at work in thc
city, but oftcn thcy focus morc on prohibition than pcrmission, on
what you cun’r rathcr than what you cun do in and to sharcd spaccs and
scrviccs. To invokc Hcnry Iord again, citizcns can cngagc with pubIic
scrviccs any way thcy Iikc – within thc sct Iist of ruIcs.
A numbcr of individuaIs and organisations havc takcn it upon
thcmscIvcs to cngagc in what couId bc caIIcd civic hacks: pIaying
within thc framcwork of thc city’s systcms, but aItcring thcmat thc
uscr IcvcI to pcrformdiffcrcnt functions.
In thc ccntrc of ScviIIc, Spanish architcct Santiago Cirugcda
wantcd to buiId a pIayground for thc ncighbourhood chiIdrcn.
In i¤¤; hc appIicd for pcrmission and was dcnicd. Hc thcn appIicd
for pcrmission to instaII a skip in front of his housc on thc prctcxt
of cIcaring somc construction dcbris. Thc skip was approvcd. Hc
thcn sct about instaIIing a scc·sawinsidc thc skip for thc chiIdrcn
to pIay on.
In San Irancisco, thc Rcbar coIIcctivc is a group of four fricnds
frustratcd by thc Iack of grccn spacc in thc city. Thcy had pctitioncd
thc mayor’s officc with thcir conccrns, yct rcccivcd no rcsponsc.
So onc aftcrnoon in Novcmbcr :oo¸ thcy gathcrcd somc turf, a bcnch
and somc trccs, pooIcd togcthcr scvcraI handfuIs of quartcrs, and
hackcd thc city’s parking systcmto crcatc a tcmporary park in a
pubIic parking spacc.
Thcir rnux(ing) projcct is commcmoratcd annuaIIy by cnthusiasts
worIdwidc. On i8 Scptcmbcr cach ycar an informaI nctwork of pubIic
spacc hackcrs hit thc strccts of thcir citics armcd with thc ingrcdicnts
for a oiv pubIic park and pIcnty of changc for thc parking mctcrs.
Rcbar arc aIso notabIc for thcir work rc·purposing San Irancisco’s
curious brccd of ‘ÞoÞos’ – PrivatcIy Owncd PubIic Spaccs. Thcsc spaccs
i(. www.rccctasurbanas.nct/
¤ Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
i. Hong Kong mobiIc phonc
rcpair station. Photograph by
Scott Burnham, :oo¤
io Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
:. orsrwooro riInro
|uninhabitcd isIand)
by Sandcr van BusscI, ixrn Hackcr
(. rInmmn
by HcImut Smits, ixrn Hackcr
±. cvrrn
by Sandcr van BusscI, ixrn Hackcr
Photography by Ico Vcgcr, :oo;
courtcsy of PIatform:i
ii Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
¸. Rcbar rnux(ing)
San Irancisco, cn, :oo¸
6. WiIIiamKamkwamba
with WindmiII, MasitaIa, MaIawi
Photograph by TomRicIIy, :oo;
i: Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
;. Dispatchwork |workshop)
in Amstcrdamby jan Vormann,
part of PIatform:i = Rcpairing
Photography by johanncs AbcIing,
courtcsy of PIatform:i
i( Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
– courtyards, pIazas, rooftop gardcns, and corporatc atriums –
arc dccmcd to bc pubIic arcas at thc pIanning stagc of thc propcrty’s
dcvcIopmcnt, but arc usuaIIy so dccpIy hiddcn within corporatc
officcs or othcrwisc privatc buiIdings that thcy dctcr pubIic usc.
Rcbar rcscarchcd “thc cxpIicit and unspokcn ruIcs” of thcsc
spaccs within thc city ordinanccs and byIaws, and procccdcd to
programand advcrtisc a scrics of pubIic community activitics in thc
privatc·pubIic spaccs, ranging frommcditation cIasscs to mid·day
napping Ioungcs. Whcn chaIIcngcd by sccurity guards thcy had proof
that what thcy wcrc doing was cntircIy pcrmissibIc. Iatcr, thc city
of San Irancisco cnIistcd Rcbar to crcatc an officiaI map of aII thc
spaccs to promotc thcir pubIic usc.
Iurthcr up thc Wcst coast of thc Unitcd Statcs, City Rcpair in
PortIand, Orcgon wantcd to turn thc intcrscction of a rcsidcntiaI
ncighbourhood into a pIacc for pcopIc, not just cars. Whcn it Iookcd
unIikcIy thcy couId gct pcrmission fromthc city, thcy got a pcrmit for
a bIock party and buiIt tca stands, book tradc stations, and community
information points aII around thc intcrscction. Thc spirit sprcad
quickIy, and pcopIc bcgan giving ovcr picccs of thcir privatc propcrty
to host somc of thc cIcmcnts of thc Iargcr party. Oncc thc bIock party
cndcd, thc parting crowds rcvcaIcd a scrics of tcmporary faciIitics for
scrviccs thc arca had bccn asking for.
Thc city of PortIand instinctivcIy dccIarcd thc structurcs iIIcgaI,
untiI it was pointcd out that through thcsc hacks thc city had actuaIIy
progrcsscd towards its own ‘IivcabiIity goaIs’ without spcnding any
pubIic funds. Thc city acquicsccd. In timc it grantcd an ordinancc
for thc structurcs to rcmain, and Iatcr to bc improvcd, and for simiIar
structurcs to bc formaIIy buiIt in othcr arcas of thc city. Thc rcsidcnts’
urban pIanning hack rcsuItcd in thc improvcmcnt of ovcr a dozcn
ncighborhoods in thc city using thc ‘bIock party’ tcmpIatc.
Urban hacks – frombrazcn tcmporary spacc·grabbing to gucriIIa
pcrformanccs of music and drama and art instaIIations – inspirc a ncw
brccd of civic cngagcmcnt and takc thc scnsc of hacking far fromits
cIcctronic origins.
In its csscncc, hacking cxpIoits thc tcnsions and barricrs
bctwccn objccts, systcms and pcopIc. What might happcn whcn thosc
tcnsions arc addrcsscd dircctIy, and thc barricrs dcIibcratcIy opcncd?
At an industry IcvcI, it is difficuIt to find a company that has bccn
morc triumphant in both bottomIinc bcncfits and brand succcss
by opcning up its product than Irco. This might sccman obvious
phiIosophy for a company whosc product is IitcraIIy thc buiIding
bIocks for othcr pcopIc’s crcativity, but thc company’s own history
of ‘hackabiIity’ is compIcx.
Whcn Irco bcgan to cxpand its product Iinc into prc·dcsigncd
kits for spccific objccts, thcy instantIy found that thc kits wcrc bcing
combincd with othcrs, augmcntcd, aItcrcd and rc·dcsigncd, and
instructions on howto do so bcing sharcd among cnthusiast groups.
It found itscIf with a vastIy cxpanding and passionatc uscr basc that
“Iccding rhc mcrcr of u
purking spucc cnubIcs onc
ro rcnr prccious downrown
rcuI csrurc, rypicuIIy on u
1/2 hour ro 2 hour busis.
Whur is rhc rungc of possibIc
occupuncy ucrivirics for rhis
shorr·rcrmIcusc? rnux(ing)
is un invcsrigurion inro
rcprogrumming u rypicuI unir
of privurc vchicuIur spucc by
Icusing u mcrcrcd purking spor
for pubIic rccrcurionuI ucriviry.
Wc idcnrificd u sirc in
un urcu of downrown Sun
Iruncisco rhur is undcrscrvcd
by pubIic ourdoor spucc und
is in un idcuI, sunny Iocurion
bcrwccn rhc hours of noon
und 2rm1hcrc wc insruIIcd u
smuII, rcmporury pubIic purk
rhur providcd nururc, scuring,
und shudc.
Our gouI wus ro rrunsform
u purking spor inro u rnux(ing)
spucc, rhcrcby rcmporuriIy
cxpunding rhc pubIic rcuIm
und improving rhc quuIiry of
urbun humun hubirur, ur Icusr
unriI rhc mcrcr run our. By our
cuIcuIurions, wc providcd un
uddirionuI 2¡,ccc squurc·foor·
minurcs of pubIic opcn spucc
rhur Wcdncsduy ufrcrnoon.”

i± Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
was taking Irco dcsign into its own hands and has sincc dcfincd thc
company’s outIook. ShortIy aftcr it rcIcascd a stand·aIonc appIication
to aIIowcustomcrs to crcatc Irco kits spccific to thcir own dcsigns,
thc appIication itscIf was hackcd by its uscrs.
Owing IargcIy to thc cmbracc of an opcn dcsign mcntaIity, Irco hacks
havc bccomc crcativc Icgcnd. Outsidc thc pIcthora of miniaturc movic
sccncs and mcchanisms in homcs around thc worId, thc Dutch artist jan
Vormann uscs thc bricks to rcpair brokcn bits of buiIdings, and ssc Top
Gcar prcscntcr jamcs May crcatcd an cntirc Iifc·sizc housc using miIIions
of thc bricks, compIctc with bcd and functioning bathroom.
Thc potcntiaI of adopting a Irco·styIc attitudc is not Iost on othcr
manufacturcrs who havc sccn thcir own products bcing manipuIatcd in
uncxpcctcd ways. “Wc knowabout it,” said an ixrn Lxccutivc whcn askcd
about ixrn Huckcr, “but wc aIso rcaIisc that wc’rc having our own ‘Irco
momcnt’, so wc’rc just watching and cnjoying”.
As companics aIIowthcir customcrs to havc a morc dircct invoIvcmcnt
in thc cnd dcsign of thcir products, thcrc is an opportunity to rc·imagc
manufacturing itscIf aIong hacking principIcs. To harncss thc potcntiaI
of an opcn dcsign mcntaIity, dcsigncrs and manufacturcrs shouId aim
bcyond simpIy bcing obscrvcrs of thc hacking to stimuIating it as a movc
towards a ncwmodcI for dcsign and production.
Thcrc is a powcrfuI cconomic and sociaI argumcnt to bc madc for
opcning thc dcsign and manufacturing proccss to hacking mcthodoIogics.
Whcthcr a sympton of a growing subcuIturc or of rcsourccfuIncss in thc
facc of a gIobaI rcccssion, ‘HackIabs’ arc appcaring in incrcasing numbcrs
in Luropc and thc Unitcd Statcs. Dcdicatcd to “cxchanging knowIcdgc,
dcsigning worIds, cxpcrimcnting with gizmos and dcviccs”
, HackIabs
arc pubIicIy·run workshops that providc spacc, tooIs and tutoring for
pcopIc to rc·purposc and rc·appropriatc things fromthcir daiIy Iivcs.
Participants arc flocking to BrookIyn’s rvc Rcsistor Iab, Iondon’s Mcdia
HackIab and MiIan’s Ion HackIab to Icarn howto takc things apart,
howthcy work, and howto put thcmback togcthcr again, diffcrcntIy
and to scrvc anothcr purposc.
HackIabs and thc proIifcration of onIinc instructions for modifying
and rc·purposing cxisting objccts couId bc intcrprctcd as anothcr
indicator that consumcrismand gIobaIismhavc Icft us jadcd with
commcrciaI dcsign. ‘CIoscd’ products impIy that thc consumcrs’ nccds
havc bccn dccidcd by thc profcssionaIs: wc arc bcing toId what thc products
wc buy arc for rathcr bcing abIc to makc thcmwhat wc want thcmto bc.
In rcbuttaI, hacking is coming into mainstrcamparIancc as a way to
rc·purposc cxisting dcsigns and objccts in ways morc prcciscIy taiIorcd
to thc uscr’s nccds and dcsircs.
What if thc dcsign and manufacturing industry rcspondcd to this and
impIcmcntcd hacking as part of thc manufacturing proccss of a product?
Ior thc makcr and manufacturcr, thc notion of rcIcasing a product
which aIIows itscIf to bc aItcrcd and rc·purposcd by thc consumcr
turns onc product into thc potcntiaI of muItipIc products in thc cycs
of thc cnd uscr.
i¸. “Hacking’s a snap in
IcgoIand”, crr1 www.ncws.cnct.
i6. Scc
“Whcn rroocxccurivcs
rcccnrIy discovcrcd rhur
uduIr funs of rhc iconic pIusric
bricks hud huckcd onc of rhc
compuny’s ncwdcvcIopmcnr
rooIs for digiruI dcsigncrs,
rhcy did u surprising rhing:
1hcy chccrcd.
LnIikc cxccurivcs ur so
muny corporurions, who wouId
bc Iourh ro Icr rhcir cusromcrs
unywhcrc ncur rhc inncr
workings of rhcir sofrwurc
rooIs, rhc rroohonchos suw
un opporruniry ro Icun on
rhc coIIccrivc rhinking of
un Inrcrncr communiry ro
improvc rhcir own producr
whiIc boIsrcring rcIurions
wirh commirrcd cusromcrs.
4II ir rook wus bcing
opcn·mindcd cnough ro
scc rhur rhcir biggcsr funs
wcrcn’r rrying ro rip rhcmoff,
rhcy wcrc rrying ro improvc
rroo’s producrs in u wuy rhur,
jusr muybc, rhc compuny’s own
dcsigncrs hudn’r rhoughr of.”

i¸ Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
So Ict us imaginc going onc stcp back fromthc rcIcasc of thc
finishcd product and distributing thc product at thc dcsign stagc
to smaII manufacturing faciIitics around thc worId, to IocaI
rcquircmcnts and using IocaI matcriaIs and Iabour.
Distributcd production has bccn a Iongtimc stratcgy for many
companics in ordcr to rcducc shipping and othcr costs. By aIso
cmpIoying distributcd dcsign and cncouraging IocaIiscd hacks of
thc sourcc product, thc IocaI makcrs and manufacturcrs bccomc
thc middIc practitioncrs in thc Iifc of thc product. IocaIIy avaiIabIc
matcriaIs rcducc thc carbon footprint of thc finaI product. At thc samc
timc a IocaI rcIationship is formcd for futurc rcpairs or scrvicc. Thc
dcsign may bc adjustcd for IocaI nccds, and/or cIimatc and cuIturaI
variations which arc not possibIc to addrcss at a gIobaI scaIc.
This proccss of ‘hackufacturing’ is a ncccssary cvoIution in thc
facc of gIobaIiscd commcrcc and dcsign. Thc intcIIcctuaI propcrty
of thc sourcc dcsign rcmains with thc dcsigncr, whiIc thc aItcration
and rcaIisation of thc finaI product anchors it in thc rcsourccs
and rcaIitics of thc IocaI manufacturcr.
Thc strcct·IcvcI mobiIc phonc rcpair shops do this cxcccdingIy
wcII in Asia and Africa, whcrc gIobaIIy produccd phoncs arc hackcd to
addrcss IocaI nccds in ways that couId ncvcr bc addrcsscd at thc gIobaI
IcvcI. As Nokia docs, thc rcst of thc worId’s makcrs and manufacturcrs
shouId Iook at thcsc hubs of hackcr activity not as iIIcgaI outposts,
but as Þso Iabs for ncwmcthods of dcsign and production.
Whcthcr provokcd by basic ncccssity or advanccd consumcr dcsirc,
hacking is a rcsponsc to dcsign faIIing short, with thc hackcr stcpping
in to rcdrcss thc gap bctwccn dcsigncr and thc rcaI worId.
AImost ±o ycars on sincc hc prcdictcd it, thcrc is IittIc cvidcncc
that Papanck’s warning about profcssionaI dcsign distancing itscIf
fromthc rcaI worId has not bccomc truc. An incrcasingIy scIf·rcfcrcntiaI
sccnc and a gIobaI industry of dcsign fcstivaIs and confcrcnccs movcs
IargcIy thc samc audicncc fromonc to thc ncxt. “Dcsign Art” has movcd
thc discipIinc furthcr into gaIIcrics and away fromprobIcm·soIving.
Thc distancc is growing bctwccn dcsign and our nccds, as is thc abiIity
for thc provcrbiaI man on thc strcct to cngagc in a diaIoguc about
dcsign and his daiIy Iifc.
This is not thc casc whcn you ask somconc about thcir rcIationship
with music, fiIm, books, tcIcvision, or cvcn thc attractivcncss of thcir
IocaI park. Dcsign is pcrccivcd as cIcvatcd fromthc daiIy rcaIitics and
cnvironmcnts of most pcopIc, aIthough its cffccts arc morc intcgraI
than aImost any othcr crcativc discipIinc.
Thc way wc intcract with dcsign diffcrs significantIy fromhow
our consumption and rcIationship with othcr crcativc discipIincs has
cvoIvcd. Thc radio is awash with rcmixcs and covcrs of cIassic songs,
tcIcvision and cincma offcrs cndIcss adaptations and intcrprctations
of Iitcrary works, and YouTubc prcscnts a sccmingIy cndIcss strcamof
vidco rcmixcs, mashups and aItcrnativc cdits to cnrich with thc rcmix
cuIturc of thc intcrnct. Thc barricr bctwccn thc mcdiumand thc
i6 Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
individuaI has bccn brokcn down. Whcn somconc hcars thc rcmix
of a song on thc radio, it warms thcir rcIationship to thc mcdiumitscIf.
It nowsccms morc maIIcabIc in pcopIc’s minds – morc approachabIc,
morc opcn. By comparison, dcsign as a discipIinc rcmains IargcIy
unyicIding and cIoscd.
Thc cmcrgcncc of a hacking cuIturc which is nowrcsponding to thc
physicaI rathcr than thc digitaI is cvidcncc of a pubIic wiII to rc·purposc
thc objccts thcy own and of a dcsirc for a ncwrcIationship with thc
objccts and systcms thcy buy and usc. Hacking rcprcscnts rcciprocity
bctwccn thc uscr and thc dcsigncr. WhiIc it compIicatcs authorship and
chaIIcngcs thc dcsigncr’s usuaI instinct for controI, hacking aIso brcaks
down barricrs bctwccn dcsign and pcopIc and yicIds significant bcncfits
in thc proccss.
Hucking crcurcs ncwcngugcmcnrs bcrwccn rhc producr
und rhc consumcr
Thc dominant modcI for dcsign has pIaccd thc dcsigncr/makcr
at onc cnd of thc spcctrum, and thc consumcr at thc othcr. Hacking
scrvcs as a ‘middIc proccss’ bctwccn crcation and consumption,
crcating an opcning for ncwdcsign proccsscs which arc not about
thc usc of ncwrcsourccs, but about thc ingcnuity to cxpand thc
potcntiaI of cxisting oncs.
Hucking mundurcs rcIcvuncc und ncccssiry in dcsign
Hacking rcprcscnts a rcturn to a dircct caII and rcsponsc bctwccn
nccd and soIution. Thcrc is nothing supcrfluous in a hackcd product
or systcm.
Hucking is rcsourccfuI
Hackcrs arc drivcn by a curiosity to find ways to augmcnt an objcct
or systcmfor improvcmcnt, or to find ncwfunctions through twcaks
and adjustmcnts. By dccpcning thcir undcrstanding and crcating
a numbcr of possibIc appIications, hackcrs rcprcscnt a ncwapproach
to probIcmsoIving which incrcascs thc rangc of dcsigncd rcsponscs
to socicty’s nccds.
Hucking crcurcs ubunduncc fromIimircd rcsourccs
To hack an objcct or a systcmis to takc it fromits originaI statc
and augmcnt, improvc, or rc·work it to scrvc an aItcrnativc purposc.
By cxpanding its function and formfromits originaI singuIar statc
to onc which might scrvc muItipIc othcr purposcs, hackcrs crcatc
numcrous dcsign rcsponscs fromonc basc.
i; Iinding thc truth in systcms: in pruisc of dcsign·hucking
Hucking finds rhc rrurh in sysrcms
Thc first thing softwarc hackcrs do whcn thcy gain acccss to a program’s
sourcc codc is cxpIorc and sharc hiddcn codc and functions not
documcntcd by thc originaI programmcrs. Whcn dcsign hackcrs opcn
and takc apart products to rc·work thcm, thc typc and quaIity of wood
found bcncath thc paint or thc intcrior parts uscd arc discusscd widcIy.
Hacking brings thc inncr rcaIitics of products to thc surfacc. It rcvcaIs
thc compIctc acsthctic and cxposcs sccrcts.
UItimatcIy, hacking givcs pcopIc a voicc. Hacking crcatcs ncw
rcaIitics, options and possibiIitics fromthosc wc arc givcn,
whcthcr commcrciaI, sociaI or civic. It offcrs forth thc notion of
a dcmocratisation of dcsign, by cnabIing thc cnd uscr to bc part
of thc proccss and not onIy on thc rccciving cnd of it.
Whcthcr thc modcI is rc·working dcsigns in ixrn Huckcr
or cxpanding thc grccn spacc in thc city through rnux(ing), thcrc
is a triumphant mcssagc of individuaI rcsourccfuIncss and dircct
cngagcmcnt whcn a hackcr scnsibiIity is appIicd to situations.
Most of aII, hacking is cvidcncc of our fundamcntaI scIf·rcIiancc
in spitc of profcssionaIism, burcaucracy and industriaI suppIy.
In many ways, it is a rcturn to, or a rcdiscovcry of, thc skiIIs which
sawus through our prc·consumcrist timcs, whcn ‘making do’ with
what you had to hand rcquircd invcntivcncss.
To rcIcgatc such activity to thc rcaIms of ‘amatcurism’ is a
dangcrous dismissaI, for it not onIy furthcr dccpcns thc ‘us and thcm’
disconncct bctwccn dcsign and socicty, but ignorcs thc vast potcntiaI
of thc crcativc cncrgics at work outsidc cstabIishcd channcIs.
Hacking prcscnts a significant chaIIcngc to thc powcr structurcs
cmbcddcd in formand usc. Yct as dcsktop fabricators Iowcr in pricc
cach ycar and morc dcsigncrs’ works arc bcing machincd fromcno
sourcc fiIcs, it is obvious that thc physicaI rcaIisation of dcsign wiII
bc incrcasingIy dispcrscd and IocaIiscd – why not aIIowthc dcsign
proccss to bccomc dispcrscd and IocaIiscd with it?
Thc boombox rcmixcs, Ioops, hacks and sampIcs which first
appcarcd on thc stcps of brownstonc buiIdings in thc Bronx dccadcs
ago wcrc dismisscd as marginaI noisc crcatcd by cuIturaI outsidcrs.
Today wc rccognisc thcsc samc ‘marginaI’ pIaycrs as thc forcfathcrs
of hip hop. Arc thc hackcrs of today Iaying thc foundations for a
1¡ Wuys ro gcr huckcd
1. Ðcsign ingrcdicnrs insrcud
of compIcrc producrs
2. If you crcurc u compIcrc
producr, incIudc un ingrcdi·
cnrs Iisr
¡. Ðcsign for disusscmbIy
¡. If rhc dcsign wus crcurcd
digiruIIy, ship rhc sourcc
fiIcs wirh rhc producr. Bcrrcr
ycr, jusr ship rhc sourcc
fiIcs. Ðon’r flurrcn rhc Iuycrs
¸. IncIudc vcrsion hisrorics
of your dcsigns
6. Ðcsign moduIcs of Iurgcr
;. RcIcusc your work huIf donc
8. RcIcusc your conccprs us
producr. Icr orhcrs mukc rhcm
n. Ðcsign producrs us pIur·
forms, und vicc·vcrsu
1c.Crcurc u pIug·in Iibrury
for orhcrs who wunr ro
udd rhings ro your dcsign
11. RcIcusc u ‘flur·puck’ oprion
– ir wus uII jusr picccs ur
somc poinr…
12. RcIcusc bcru vcrsions
1¡. If scIf·usscmbIy is rcquircd,
providc oprions for usscmbIy.
Crcurc u wiki ro uIIowyour
cusromcrs ro do rhc sumc
1¡. If ir comcs prc·usscmbIcd,
incIudc insrrucrions for
ruking ir upurr
“4dopr u huckcr urrirudc rowurds uII forms of knowIcdgc: nor onIy ro Icurn
u×ix or Windows ×1 ro huck rhis or rhur compurcr sysrcm, bur ro Icurn
cconomics, socioIogy, physics, bioIogy ro huck rcuIiry irscIf. Ir is prcciscIy
rhc “cun do” mcnruIiry of rhc huckcr, nuivc us ir muy somcrimcs bc,
rhur wc nccd ro nurrurc cvcrywhcrc.”
—ManucI DcIanda
i;. PauI DMiIIcr, aka oj Spooky,
cssay on and intcrvicwwith ManucI
1hc uurhor
Scott Burnhamis a crcativc dircctor, writcr and
consuItant. Hc crcatcd Amstcrdam’s Lrbun IIuy projcct
in coIIaboration with Droog Dcsign in :oo8 as a city·
widc cxpIoration of opcn sourcc urban dcsign. An
carIy proponcnt of ixrn Huckcr, hc rcccntIy brought
thc projcct to Amstcrdamin :oo8 and to OsIo in :oo¤.
Burnhamhas addrcsscd thc IntcrnationaI
Confcrcncc on Luropcan PoIicy and thc WorId Urban
DcvcIopmcnt Congrcss on opcn sourcc approachcs
to dcsign and urbanismand is a gucst Iccturcr at a
numbcr of institutions incIuding CcntraI Saint Martins
in Iondon, and thc Art Institutc of Chicago. His writing
crcdits incIudc co·authoring thc book visuuIizing rhc
Ciry |RoutIcdgc Prcss :oo8) and a rcccnt fcaturc on
urban dcsign hacks for ci1v in Sydncy.
In :oo¤ Burnhambccamc projcct dircctor for
thc PrcmscIa Ioundation’s Dcsign Trust programin
thc NcthcrIands and continucs to work with a numbcr
of gIobaI partncrs on dcsign stratcgics bascd on opcn
sourcc and hacking mcthodoIogics. Hc is currcntIy
crcating thc Ðcsigning Inspirurion ur Cubc Ioungc cvcnt
scrics for Nissan.
RSA Dcsign k Socicty
RoyaI Socicty for thc cncouragcmcnt
of Arts, Manufacturcs k Commcrcc
8 john AdamStrcct
Iondon wc:r 6rz
+ ±± |o) :o; ¤(o ¸ii¸
Ðirccror of Ðcsign
LmiIy CampbcII
Ðcsign &Socicry rcum
McIanic Andrcws, Ann CrawIcy,
janct Hawkcn, jamic Young
Rcgistcrcd as a charity in LngIand and WaIcs no. :i:±:±
and in ScotIand no. sco(;;8±
Dcsigncd by john Morgan studio
RSA Dcsign k Socicty aims to incrcasc pcopIc’s
rcsourccfuIncss. Our intcrvcntions and cducationaI
initiativcs sharc thc insights and proccsscs of dcsign
with thosc who wouId othcrwisc bc cxcIudcd fromit,
and cngagc a widc group of pcopIc in thc rcsoIution of
somc of socicty’s most intractabIc chaIIcngcs – from
hcaIth, crimc, and cnvironmcntaI dcgradation to poor
communication and manufacturing in dccIinc – through
adaptivc and coopcrativc probIcm·soIving. Thcsc projccts,
and a provocativc programmc of pubIishing and dcbatc,
put dcsign squarcIy into thc RSA’s widcr vision of
sociaI progrcss.
Thc RSA has bccn a sourcc of idcas, innovation and civic
cntcrprisc for ovcr :¸o ycars. In thc Iight of ncwchaIIcngcs
and opportunitics for thc human racc our purposc nowis
to dcvcIop and promotc ncwways of thinking about human
capacity, fuIfiImcnt and sociaI progrcss.
Drawing togcthcr diffcrcnt discipIincs and pcrspcctivcs,
wc bring ncwidcas and provocativc dcbatcs to a mass
audicncc. Wc work with partncrs to gcncratc rcaI progrcss.
Our IcIIowship is a sourcc of capacity, commitmcnt and
innovation in IocaI and gIobaI communitics.

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