Democratic Design Challenge

Off The Grid: Open Source and 3D

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Design brief

This official design challenge on MyMiniFactory in collaboration with IKEA explores the notion of "Off the Grid" and ties into a series of public workshops, and we want you to contribute. For those of you who participated in one of these workshops, the information below is not new, but please have a read through anyhow, especially to see how to take part in this online Design Challenge.

Why "Off The Grid"?

IKEA believes in providing as many people as possible with the means to create a better everyday life. Today, a lot of people lack access to the common water, energy and communications grids, which in many cases are key to make life at home work. That is why we want to explore independent off the grid solutions that allow people to be less dependent on existing systems. We want to explore hands-on everyday off-grid solutions for the basic things to cope with everyday life: energy, water, and communication. We want to harness the power of the sun to provide the light and electricity needed in everyday life. We want to improve the usage, cleaning, and collecting of water. And we want to see how people can connect without grids.

Why a Democratic Design Challenge?

Off the Grid connects to IKEA's idea about democratising great things, to give the people access to high-value products that make everyday life better. Democratic Design is guided by IKEA's vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people".

Democratic Design is a tool and a mindset that can be applied to a number of design areas - from product design, to architecture, to media, to food, and much more.

Making things better through IKEA's Democratic Design principles means doing five things better:

1) Form: making the world more beautiful.
2) Function: really making everyday life easier and more meaningful.
3) Quality: making everything last longer and age gracefully.
4) Sustainability: taking responsibility to have an improving impact on people and the planet.
5) Low price: making it truly affordable for the many.

IKEA works with all five principles, all the time. It's a straightforward formula but it takes a lot of hard work. Besides being the way IKEA makes things better and making sure as many people as possible can get access to great solutions, Democratic Design also creates a way for more people to talk about what's good and what's not.

For this challenge, participants should embrace the Democratic Design process, and use 3D designs and 3D printing to create an "Off the Grid" solution which aims to solve a problem that people or institutions face today. This is an open brief, but operates within the specific framework: access to water, access to energy and communications are the three problems that qualify for this "Off the Grid" design challenge.

Be creative, be inspiring and deliver a project that can help make a difference.

Find out more about Democratic Design.

How to enter?

You can enter the Democratic Design Challenge in two equal ways: either by submitting a 3D printable version of the object, or simply by submitting an idea of the object. When submitting an object, you can use your favourite 3D design software, or explore our curated list of 3D tools. See the Process below for more details.

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  • The IKEA Democratic Design Challenge launches on Friday 25th May 2018. You can submit your 3D printable object or your design idea from that date. Your can submit any number of 3D printable object and/or ideas based on the design brief during that period, and all of them will be considered as an entry of this design challenge.

  • Entries will be open until Friday, August 31st 2018.

  • When submitting a 3D object and for this object to eventually be published and shared to other members on MyMiniFactory, this object has to be 3D printable on a desktop 3D printer. On the other hand, when submitting an idea, all you need is a title, a description and a picture. This picture can be anything that helps you describe the idea (sketches, pictures, reference pictures, etc.). It makes it both very easy to share simply the spark of an idea, but you can also go into more detail if your concept has been more tested.

  • When submitting your object or your idea, please use the five dimensions of Democratic Design to describe your product: it makes it easier for IKEA to review and evaluate what you want to do and how you want to do it (see the rest of the process below). Does your solution have a form that is appealing and pleasant to live with? Is it really functional? Does it solve the problem you aim to solve in a way that is easy to use? Are the materials and the construction durable and long-lasting? Does it support a sustainable way of life and can it be produced in a sustainable way? How is this solution affordable? Is the production simple? Are you proposing the right use of materials? Try to make your object or your idea as hands-on as possible. Think about how people can use it in their everyday lives in a simple way - connect your object or your idea to the needs, activities and behaviours we all go through during the course of the day.

  • Neither objects nor ideas uploaded during this submission period will be published at that time. This is because entries to this particular Democratic Design challenge will be reviewed by IKEA before publication (see bullet point below).

  • Following the submissions period, IKEA will review and evaluate the entries during the following weeks (there again, the precise date is to be confirmed and will be communicated to participants). Until this date, objects and ideas submitted as part of the Democratic Design Challenge will be under a "Free Exclusive License", meaning that only IKEA can use the idea and that IKEA does not pay anything for it until the end of this evaluation period and if IKEA decides to acquire the idea. This does not mean that IKEA owns the object or the idea that is submitted (you keep ownership and copyright), but that they have the right to be the first to acquire the objects and ideas submitted (if a deal is found with the designer or creator). This is not an automatic process, but relies on the further dialogue between IKEA and the designer.

  • In the case that IKEA wants to acquire the object or the idea, this leads to a further conversation between the designer and IKEA. Both parties eventually enter into an commercial agreement, with IKEA to further develop the idea into an IKEA product. In this case and only at this stage is the object or the idea exclusively owned by IKEA.

  • In the case that IKEA does not want to acquire the object or the idea or that no deal is found between IKEA and the designer, objects and ideas are published on MyMiniFactory. Ownership of the objects and the ideas remains with the designer. You can find out more about the licensing on MyMiniFactory on this page.

  • After the review phase and once objects are published, a public community vote period will be open from April (once again, the precise date and mechanism of the community voting will be confirmed; but this will give a fair chance to the best designs to be identified by the community and desktop 3D printer users).

  • Winners of the community vote reward will then be announced. The best designs will be curated and promoted in collections organised under the official IKEA profile on MyMiniFactory.

  • Please don't hesitate to ask any questions!

What's in it for you?

On top of contributing to solving global challenges by taking part in the Democratic Design Challenge, the best ideas and designs will have the possibility of being included in a collection of Off The Grid solutions, developed by IKEA. A selection of ideas and designs will probably be showcased during the IKEA Democratic Design Days in Älmhult - an annual event attended by some 250 journalists and influencers. This is a great opportunity to showcase your work to design enthusiasts, press, and IKEA insiders. To find out more about the Democratic Design Days, check out the last edition's live show below.

Community vote reward

Your objects will also be made available to 3D printer owners around the world, by being published on MyMiniFactory. Following publication of objects, a public community vote will be open, inviting members of MyMiniFactory to Like their favourite design. The object that collects the most Likes at the end of this community voting period will receive a desktop 3D printer (brand and model TBC).

Invite your friends and colleagues

Whether you're looking to enter as a team, to share this Design Challenge with friends or with fellow students, or simply to share this design brief on social media, here are some easy sharing options for you:

Ask any questions

Do you have any questions, comments or feedback about the IKEA Democratic Design Challenge (including questions from the press)? Don't hesitate to post your public questions below. Alternatively, you can also contact the MyMiniFactory Team using our contact form or by emailing