Open circle is a study project done at the University of Applied Science Potsdam by Bela Kurek (@q-rec) and Lucas Vogel (@vogelino) in the winter semester 2016-2017. The project has been realised in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Practices in Berlin Agora Collective and Berlin's public cleansing service the Berliner Stadtreinigung in the course CIRCULAR ECONOMY supervised by Alexandra Martini.
The berlin-based center for contemporary practices offers co-working spaces, artists- and dance- studios as well as a café and an event space which they all tender with sustainability in mind. The idea behind the project was to help the Agora Collective with ideas and creations to improve their integration in a circular economy.
We, Bela Kurek and Lucas Vogel, are two interface design students and mostly took part to the course for its very interesting and until then for us rather unexplored topic: The Circular Economy. From the beginning we saw an opportunity to use our skills as interface designers to digitally support Agora in their aim. We both did made many experiences in the world of open source development and became early the idea to combine open source with circular economy.
A related project called OSCE-Days tried to reach a similar goal with a community forum and events, in which professional of different fields of expertise can exchange their ideas for a more circular and sustainable world. Nevertheless, because of the restricted collaboration on their forum, we saw the potential of creating a web platform that better combines the advantages of open source development and the goals of the circular economy.
Research, inspiration & ideation
We took most of our inspiration from the version control tool git and the online community website Github, which allows developers to work on a same code base simultaneously and therefor, to reach efficiency and better code quality. Github.com is one of the most visited website in the world (rank 60 at the time of writing) and big companies like Facebook also open sourced some of their own code projects on it, taking advantage of the community to improve their tools and gain in popularity. This makes it one additional reason to take github as our main inspiration.
The idea of collaboration within communities is very important to us and has already proved itself efficient in the software world. The more people take part of a project, the greater does its quality increase. This could almost be transferred one to one to circular economy projects, as many individuals together bring more productivity and critical minds with them. On this account, we decided to create an online tool that allows collaboration and sharing in an easy way, witch serves as a home for great ideas that can be continuously improved and motivates professionals and amateurs in their engagement for a more sustainable and clean world.
Our solution is meant for individual users as well as for communities or enterprises. With it, it should be possible to present and share its own circular economy related knowledge. This requirement brought us to split the website into four different sections:
An individual user of the website. Anyone wanting to write something or to contribute to a project needs to create an account. Without an account, most of the contents remain open and readable by anyone but it isn't possible to actively take part to anything.
A community is a group of users that want to work together on particular projects. This can be a collective, like Agora, an enterprise or even a group of friends that meet online. Communities can be used to communicate internal goals to the outside world and to work on common fields together with like-minded people.
A project can consist of many recipes and can be seen as the practical application of a knowledge. A project should not just describe a product/result as is but also the process in which it has been created and how it integrates in a circular economy. This could be the Agora's growhouse or the Timberland's creation of Shoe soles made of plastic waste.
In order to illustrate the potential of such a platform, we decided to design the screens of the website. First, we decided about the goals of the product and listed them to make sure to keep track on the aspects to fulfill. We then started to scribble the different pages layout. As a second step, we created more precise filigree representations of the pages, the so called wireframes, insetering gradually the needed contents and interface elements.
Subsequently, we agreed on UI guidelines, typography and colors. We used them on the wireframes to create more realistic screen designs. These have the purpose to demonstrate how exactly would the page look like once coded, like a non-interactive simulation.
Anyway, in order to demonstrate the usage of the website, we created video simulation showing a fictive user acting on the platform. You can find it below:
We open sourced the project on Github to allow anybody to build upon these ideas and we hope that someone will make it his business, so that eventually, this project or a similar one once becomes available to the community. If you are one of these, please feel free to contact us and/or simply to tell us what you did with it.
With this project, we could use and train our skills as interface designers and apply them on a very interesting and promising field. Furthermore and despite our digital approach, we enjoyed being part of the Agora project. We got great feedback from the other participants and from the members of Agora, which have shown a great interest of making this project become real. We learned a lot, we had our first experience in the field of circular economy and are now exited about taking part into more projects like this one.
As already mentioned, we published the project in an open source fashion with no restricted licensing with the hope in mind, that somewhere, whether it is Agora itself or anyone else, someone will bring this idea to life. As students, we unfortunately do not have the time and the financial resources to pursue with the development of this project. Nonetheless, we really hope that sometime soon, collaboratively working on great circular economy ideas will be as simple as publishing software on Github.