As designers we influence and design access to the things we make. That is, we build on assumptions about who can and who can’t use, experience or read the spaces and artifacts we design. We might decide, intentionally or not, whether something is visible or not, and whether someone or something is represented or not. Our choice of technology specifies a group of users. Our framing of a brief specifies an audience. Our references specify a culture. But what, then, could open access mean? Umberto Eco famously wrote about an open work in which the author offers the interpreter, the performer, the addressee, a work to be completed. We’ve had open architecture, open design and open source, all suggesting that a participatory design is somehow stronger or more interesting when it is completed by a particular public. Would open access be a completely transparent process to which anyone could contribute? A truly interdisciplinary, public design that refused to exclude?

In this tenth year of DesignInquiry, we are interested in increasing access to the ideas, initiatives, collaborations developed and continued through DesignInquiry. After ten years of rich, intensive exploration of more than ten timely and pertinent topics (including failure, joy, making do, designing less) how do we extend, track and enhance the effects of a these inquiries on design discourse? How do we open up access to the means and methods of design? We encourage participants to bring strategies and tools to share and cross-pollinate. Repeat performers are encouraged to bring projects commenced at DI, continued at DI or inspired by DI, with a view to pushing them to the next step, be it greater access, open access or some kind of organizing axis.

Bring ongoing and newly-minted research projects related with a view to discussing and pursuing the gnarly issues: who we are trying to access and what could open access mean?

Join DesignInquiry in Vinalhaven, Maine to consider the dimensions of ACCESS, as we spend a week in June making the island a hub of diverse creative networks and a productive junction of thinking and making.


Vinalhaven 2014

JUNE 22-28, 2014


$725 = Registration Fee + Housing

$175 = Food


APPLY to attend ACCESS in Vinalhaven June 22-28, 2014.

Contact us at and we will send you a questionnaire in which you may propose anything you think is appropriate to inform/to question/to develop/to inspire the selected topic. Thoughts, ideas, experiences and observations will ideally become the starting point for a contribution to the ACCESS gathering in Vinalhaven and subsequent publishing. We will contact you to indicate if your proposal has been accepted, i.e. expands the mix of contributions to the topic during and after the gathering. Participants will be accepted until ACCESS fills. Apply early, it’s a small group of only 24 on Vinalhaven for the ACCESS inquiry.