This list covers all of the points that a designer should consider when designing a product for Opendesk. It will be used to help the assessment of products (concepts or working products).


# A. Design with a Brief

The design brief should inform on the criteria that the designer should work around and that will later be used for the assessment (i.e. product typology, material use, key features).


Rule 1 - design brief:

  • No design work should start before the design brief is issued

# B. Design for an Online Platform

Opendesk is an online platform for distributed manufacturing, with a network of independent makers around the world. All products are hosted online as digital files and made locally to where it’s needed. This new kind of supply chain is changing the way products are published and with this there a number of factors to consider when designing for the platform


Rule 1 - web publishing: products are stored on the platform under a specific structure which designers need to take into account when naming their products..

  • All products must be associated to a range. This can be a new or existing range.
  • It’s the designer’s responsibility to choose the name of the product’s range.
  • It’s the designer’s responsibility to choose the name of the product.

e.g. Lean (range) Team desk (design) standard (product)


Rule 2 - distributing manufacturing:

  • A product should be universally makable. All points on this topic are covered in the following sections:

D. Design for Material
E. Design for Finishes
F. Design for CNC 3 Axis Machining
G. Design for Makers
H. Design for Hardware
I. Design for Logistics and Delivery


# C. Design for Parametric Modelling

Working with plywood and laminates which can vary in thickness, all designs are modeled and exported in all possible thicknesses +/- 0.5mm as standard. Therefore all tolerances should be drawn assuming the material has a tolerance of 0.00mm. Opendesk will then take care export files for different material thicknesses (e.g. from ply to laminates or mm to inch).

We also use this parametric tool to change product dimensions. Designers should consider how their product will react to this process.


Rule 1 - size variants:

  • If a large part of the design intention is the ability to modify it, then irregular and asymmetric shapes should be avoided as they are complicated to add parameters to. e.g. tables and storage are the most likely to benefit from this process - The Lean Desk is currently available at different lengths: 1.2m, 1.6m, 2m and 2.4m
  • When altering the dimensions of a product parametrically we start with the maximum size (i.e. according to material use and nesting efficiency) and reduce it. This is done so that the components do not have to be re-nested.
  • The designer should set the limit of the customisation possibilities for his/her product.
  • It is important to pay attention to hole placement for parametrisation - Joe to elaborate on the complications around hole positioning.


Rule 2 - parametric modeling:

  • The accepted file formats are the following: 3dm, dwg and dxf.

# D. Design for Material

We work primarily with birch plywood or white laminate sheets (1220x2440mm/ 8x4’). We also offer a curated selection of laminates on request as an alternative to the online offering. The standard quality birch plywood Opendesk works with is B/BB. This quality should ensure the minimum amount of knots on the plywood sheet.

In a bid to keep Opendesk’s products as universal as possible we do not advocate the use of over oversized sheets (3050x1525mm / 10x5’). However in the case where a product’s dimensions require the use of oversized sheets we highly recommend that laminates are used in order to avoid quality issues (i.e. low quality material with lots of plugs and defects).

Furthermore not all CNC machines are large enough to cut oversized sheets, only 40% of our makers have oversized machines that will support the making of such products.


Rule 1 - grain direction: the grain direction should be considered when designing and nesting the components of a product. This is for aesthetic reasons.

  • Ideally the legs and tops should be nested in the direction of the grain*.
  • Ideally storage doors should be nested together to achieve a continuous grain across the facade of the product.
  • Grain direction should be consistent between products within the same range, which is achieved by nesting parts together or in the same orientation.

*Grain direction: In most countries the grain runs down the length of a standard sheet (8x4’ or 1220x2440mm).


Rule 2 - laminate: when working with laminate it is important to consider that thickness is likely to increase. An 18mm laminate can actually measure up to 20mm thick. Skimming can be used to accommodate a product designed primarily for birch plywood.

  • Skimming is only acceptable on small surfaces. A skimming operation on a whole table top would be very expensive.

*Skimming: Removing the laminate layer over the surface of the part. This is done when two parts need to be glued together to create a single component. This can be seen on the legs of most Opendesk Tables and Desks. This is essential, as glue will not work when applied to the laminated material, only the ply surface.


Rule 3 - nesting: nesting is the arrangement of components on the surface of the sheet. Efficient nesting should be considered from the start of the design process. The typology of the product should dictate the amount of material required to make it. The sheet can be visualised as a grid, divided into wholes (1220 x 2440), halves (1220 x 1220) and quarters (1220 x 610).

  • When offering different sizes for a product, it is important to maintain the nesting as consistent as possible. This is also applicable if the number of sheets required change.
  • In the case of loose components and accessories (i.e. cable cover) as part of the baseline product offering, the nesting should allow for these components to be consistent for all sizes and variations of the product. eg. cable covers on a 1.2m desk should be the same as the cable covers on a 2.4m desk
  • In the case of a half sheet product the parts should be nested into a square of 1220x1220mm. The amount of material used should be proportional to the product value.
    e.g.1 chair = 1/4 sheet, 1 table = 1-2 sheets, a 4 pers desk = 3 sheets, etc
  • Small products (i.e. less than ¼ sheet) can not be sold individually but only in sets. e.g. a stool can not be sold individually
  • Products will be sold as a minimum of ½ sheet, therefore products that are less will need to be sold as a set. This should be considered in the nesting.
  • Interacting parts should be nested as close together as possible, as pockets depth accuracy can vary from one end of the CNC bed to the other.
  • Ideally 1 product = 1 material = 1 thickness. However if a product nests onto multiple sheets then it is possible to use different thicknesses for the same product. e.g. The Meeting Table has a 24mm table top with an 18mm frame.


Rule 4 - thickness: Opendesk works with plywood standard thicknesses that are universally available: 12,18 and 24mm. Thickness can vary +/- 0.5mm from the original, therefore tolerances of connecting parts need to be taken into account in the design. When deciding on material thickness designers should bear in mind the product typology, size and construction method.

  • The thickness of the sheet has an impact on the span and strength of a product. e.g. 12mm product needs to be glued or carefully supported.
  • Ideally joints shouldn’t be thickness dependant. Material thickness variation should be taken into consideration when designing. In the case of thickness dependant joints, alternative solutions can be used such as hardware and/or components creating tension on the structure. e.g. on the Breakout Table, the leg brace is longer than the beams which pushes the legs outwards and creates tension, helping to stabilise the table.
  • Thickness has an impact on weight. Material thickness should be a consideration when a product is designed to be glued and assembled prior to delivery (e.g FIN Lockers). It must be a reasonable weight for two people to carry up a flight of stairs. e.g we have found that 18mm works well for desks and 12mm for storage. Our Fin Lockers Planters weight 55kg using 3 sheets of 12mm.

*General info:
Average weight per meter cube:
12mm ~ 25.00kg/m3
18mm ~ 37.50kg/m3
24mm ~ 50.01kg/m3


# E. Design for Finishes

Birch plywood is the main material Opendesk works with. It should always be sanded and oiled or lacquered (depending on size of order and workshop facilities). Not all makers have capacity for lacquering. Laminate material only requires edge finishing.


Rule 1 - plywood: the finishing of small components after cutting is commonly done by hand e.g the hasp components on the Fin Lockers. Longer finishing times increase the price of a product, therefore designers should be mindful of the complexity of finishing their product requires.

  • Avoid the addition of small or intricate pieces to the product.
  • We do not specify for paint or spray finishes as they are harder to control universally and would not insure consistency.


Rule 2 - laminates: working with laminates ensures visual consistency across the sheet. Laminates are great for tabletops as they are easy to clean and more resistant to spills and staining. We have found that laminates are particularly well suited to products used in public environments.

  • Opendesk currently works only with Abet, Fenix and Formica laminates. We do not use Lino, Smile Plastics.
  • In the case of specifying magnetic whiteboard materials please note that this will increase the cost of the product as it is more likely to blunt cutters when machining.

*FIRA regulations:
Osmo raw oil respect FIRA regulations for fire and food


Rule 3 - upholstery:

  • Opendesk does not manage upholstery.

# F. Design for CNC 3 Axis Machining

All Opendesk furniture is made using a 3 axis CNC router which comes with its specific requirements. It is important to understand the way the technology works in order to be creative around it.


Rule 1 - machining: we want Opendesk products to be as universally accessible as possible. Makers with the most basic CNC machines (i.e. machines without automatic tool change) should be capable of making all Opendesk products. Therefore we encourage our designers to simplify the manufacturing process of their piece of furniture as much as possible (without compromising their design vision of course).

  • Reduce the number of different cut depths where possible. The fewer machine operations the better.
  • Avoid small components where possible as they tend to get sucked up by the machine or catch on the cutter. This can cause damage the other parts being cut and can cause accidents.
  • An alternative to small locking pegs is to use simple universal hardware solutions (please see ‘Design for Hardware’ section for more info in this).
  • Avoid reverse side machining where possible.


Rule 2 - tooling:

  • The fewer the number of tools used to cut a product the better. e.g. the commonly used tools are 8mm cutter for profiling and pockets, 6mm cutter for holes, chamfer tool and fillet tool for edge details.


Rule 3 - drawing:

  • Always draw for a 8mm diameter cutter.
  • Use the Opendesk template to draw the design.
  • Use the Opendesk template to name layers on the drawing.
  • Allow for enough space between components on the nested sheet (i.e. 20mm around the edges of the sheet and between components). This is especially important for drawing chamfers.
  • Dogbones should be drawn for every internal corner on the drawing. Below is the list of dogbones that compliment our parametric thickness file tool.
  • Always use ‘rational geometry’ to draw curves (e.g use the fillet tool rather than hand drawn splines). This is to ensure that the export will run smoothly as well as facilitating dimension changes and will make it easier to sand.

# G. Design for Makers

Opendesk’s unique distributed manufacturing model means that we work with a global network of independent makers. Each maker comes with a unique set of skills and workshop facilities and might be subject to material availability based on location (e.g. in Brazil birch plywood is hard to come by so pine plywood is used). Products should be as accommodating and comfortable to put together as possible for the maker.


Rule 1 - instructions:

  • A product must come with instructions.
  • The instructions should mostly use visuals to explain the assembly of the product. Words should be only used if necessary (i.e. title, name of product) so that the instructions are universally readable no matter what the language is.
  • Ideally the instructions should fit on an A4 document. This is to avoid confusion if pages are printed separately and prevent paper waste.
  • Instructions published online will be redrawn in the Opendesk template.


Rule 2 - assembly: the assembly process should be a major factor in the design process. It is important to keep in mind the person who will be making it and designing for making in volume.

  • Assembly should be as straight forward as possible. There shouldn’t be any doubt regarding how components go together. e.g. parts should only fit in one way, removing the decision making process in the assembly
  • Ideally a product should require only one maker to be assembled. Ultimately the product shouldn’t require more than 2 people.
  • For more details please refer to the Maker Spec Guide (available on the Playbook)

# H. Design for Hardware

Opendesk will often use universal hardware solutions to secure joints. In the spirit of distributed manufacturing and universality of making, any hardware specified should be easily accessible and shouldn’t be reliant on one specific supplier.


Rule 1 - specification:

  • Hardware specified should be universally sourceable.
  • Hardware used should be as simple as possible.
  • Hardware used should be Iso.
  • Material of hardware used should be specified (e.g. SS, zinc, …)

*Opendesk generally uses:
M6 x 30mm bolts and nuts
M6 Threaded inserts


Rule 2 - drawing:

  • Indicate on the drawing what lines are associated to the hardware integration. e.g. tool diameter has to be changed to 6mm instead of 8mm


Rule 3 - assembly:

  • Use hardware to connect components where needed to avoid small plywood connecting components.

# I. Design for Delivery and Logistics

Opendesk deliveries are usually carried out by the maker or a third party. Therefore it is important to have all the information in hand to insure the a smooth delivery and assembly of the furniture.


Rule 1 - for a smooth delivery:

  • Depending on the size of the product, hardware may be preferred over glueing to facilitate the assembly and disassembly of the product. e.g. long desks or high storage units are considered as large
  • Products should be easy to assemble and disassemble using universal fixings and tools. e.g. threaded inserts, bolts and allen keys
  • One to two non-skilled persons should be able to assemble and disassemble the product with ease.
  • The product should have the minimum amount of small parts possible as small components get lost easily. Depending on the client’s location and access, there are several things to consider regarding the logistical impact of the maker, delivery team and client experience.
  • Although fundamental to the package, is the design easy enough to understand that assembly instructions are only offered as a backup, rather than an essential document?


Rule 2 - product information:

  • A product should come with GA, dimensions, key features (i.e. lock)
  • A product should come with Spec (finish, hardware, assembly guides)
  • The total weight of the product should be indicated. E.g give formula to calculate
  • It is important to consider the product environment and the health and safety implications.


Rule 3 - caring for products:

  • Products should be easy to look after and fixable.
  • Products need to be spec’d with a good quality oil or lacquer in order for them to last longer.
  • Limiting the amount of small and moving parts may enhance a product’s longevity.