“We, the people, the untrained majority, are the future of design. We have the tools and we will be the masters of our personal environments… We’re not dumb consumers, we’re creative consumers… We won’t buy anything that isn’t uniquely specified by ourselves.” So begins an essay in July’s edition of Icon magazine, written by the editor Justin McGuirk.
Icon is a ‘glossy’ design mag in the same vein as something like Wallpaper, as such, whilst it’s read by designers, it’s aimed primarily at consumers. And so the article is something of an overview, and doesn’t go into enough depth to reveal anything which those with an interest in consumer design won’t have heard before. Nonetheless, there are some interesting opinions which clearly set out the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps, and it demonstrates the extent to which fabbing, and consumer design are beginning to appear in the mainstream of design culture.
McGuirk begins by introducing sites such as Ponoko, Etsy, Shapeways and Materialise, and outlines how the cost of manufacturing is dramatically reduced when you move from mass-manufactured tooling to rapid manufacturing technologies. The article explains how the initial high investment which mass manufacturing requires leads to a fear of unpopular products, and thus to a design culture which seeks to minimise risk. At this point I felt like I was reading the introduction to my own thesis, so closely does it tie in to some of the things I’ve written in the past. McGuirk quotes Will Wright, designer of The Sims, who says
“It’s always surprised us [that] whenever we’ve given the players the opportunity to participate in the creation process, in every case they’ve exceeded our expectations. What they’ve done with the tools that we provide is always so far beyond what we thought was possible… When you have a million players all out there making stuff, against a small number of smart people always trying to do there best, it seems [the million] always win.”