Consumer Created Designs

Hi,

This may be a very unpopular topic, but something that designers need to grapple with. It seems that are many companies that are now crowd sourcing 2D designs successfully. There are also companies that are by providing free online tools, getting the larger population of non-designers to create stuff online.

I am beginning to see similar improvements that we saw after the introduction of digital photography and photo communities – vast improvements in quality of non-professional photography , happening in 2D design. I suspect that this will be the case in 3D design as well. Spore – released by EA is certainly breaking new grounds here.

There is no intent to discredit professional designers here, but I would like to know peoples thoughts on how this is going to evolve.

oops, this seem to have been discussed to death. Now that the emotive part of this discussion is taken care off, can we discuss the engagement of designers in this process that is now happening.

  • Companies are opening up as much as possible for users to create what they want - but they cant due to the complexity involved.

  • They are opening up the low complexity region of design - 2D printable stuff

  • There are now very successful business like zazzle, cafe press and spread shirt that depend on crowd sourced design.

  • These models depend on initial hi-quality content being provided by skilled designers allowing users to change it within limits

  • the next obvious step is to move into the 3D space. Companies like ponoko and shapeways have already done that

  • There seems to be a need here for a new type of design skill - that accepts that people are going to play around with your core idea.

I am interested to know if designers are comfortable with this proposition. A different role in which designers create the core concept that companies put on the web for consumers to play with.

There are some people out there, which have gotten pretty good at sketch up. Consumers are aware that someone designed all the printed / generated material they seen so if an effort is made, they will pick up on good and bad design layouts. I’ve found from talking to people, that not nearly as many people think that the stuff that surround them and the experiences that are constructed for them (think about going into best buy). Are designed, or made by people.

On one hand, it is much like the influence of focus groups on design. Sometimes that is good, sometimes bad. Just look at the Subaru Impreza…very bad.

On the other hand, the use of user generated graphics that you mention are fairly niche. I suppose that 3D will be the same way. Perhaps it will only steal 1-2% of business away from IDers. Although, I suspect it will be more like nothing stolen from IDers, rather 1-2% more stuff being produced.

May be its not the right comparisons, as in focus groups potential consumers play a peripheral role to reduce the risk of failure and to bring out important issues that designers many not be aware off.

In consumer created designs, the consumer is in the driving seat, the designers helps to put them there. They are not there to aid the designer, its the other way around.

May I urge that we avoid two issues in this discussions thread please.

  1. Job Losses - don’t think that this will be due to consumers creating stuff
  2. End of design profession - as a result of consumers designing, this will not happen

If we take these issues out of the picture we can have meaningful discussion. Pls consider :

  • companies are there because of consumers
  • consumers too love to do what you do - design (even though they may not be able to)
  • there are enough and more companies desperate for consumer engagement and are doing it through customization
  • Almost all major companies have increasing initiatives to involve the consumer in the design process - focus groups is one of them
  • the extension of this is the transfer of design decisions - in a highly controlled way - to the consumer

This is happening. Designers have very little influence over the way industry re-structures itself to pander to customers. The ones that pander most will win - this is inevitable.

In this context, what is role (positive one) for designers ?

The negative role is evident from the previous discussion thread. Denial, fear of job losses and condemnation. Can we get over that ?

i’m not too worried about it…Everyone and their grandpa are using the internet, and you don’t see web developers struggling for jobs…

If we aren’t talking about consumers designing their own products, I’m not sure how they can be anything but as peripheral as a focus group. If it’s not a direct activity, then we are really talking about user participatory design. That is already in use and is an extension of the previous user-research methods.

Its only because grandpas are online web developers have jobs. More people being online doing online stuff is good for those in the online business. Wont it be the same for design ? more people doing design is good for those who do it for a living.

What is in the periphery can move to the center. Please check out www.spore.com creature creation the domain of expert 3d modelers is now in the hands of 4 yr olds.

Designers tend to assume that they are in the center. We should not ignore what is happening around us.

Interesting topic!

I think one can analogically see this “customer creation”-thing happening in interior design. People design their home by themselves, but there is still professional interior designers. Same thing is happening also in small house architecture? The biggest difference compared to product design is the need for mass production. One has to have knowledge about mass production. The most important thing, I think, is that in “customer creation”, customer designs for himself and in mass production we design for masses. Customer can know what he/she needs but designers are professionals in analysing what are the needs of masses and how to generalize them. Second thing is that designers has the ability to develop these needs to a coherent design concepts. And this is the skill, which can be gained only by education and experience.

What do you think?

Interior design is an excellent example. 98% of it is in the hands of non-designers. Designers - in their current form are fairly recent in history. They came in with mass production - which is now transforming.

Now mass customization and the production of one off products is in sway. zazzle is a good example of this. All companies are now trying to customized and many are offering one off products and are beginning to do this successfully and economically.


Customer can know what he/she needs but designers are professionals in analysing what are the needs of masses and how to generalize them. Second thing is that designers has the ability to develop these needs to a coherent design concepts. And this is the skill, which can be gained only by education and experience.

What do you think?

Masses seem to know what they want. Is it correct to assume that designers know better for example the color choice for a car ? - it may not be so, as far as many companies are concerned. They want customers to be happy, not necessary for them to keep designers happy. But this is against the old idea of “brand” that companies used to maintain with massive advertisement budgets and marketing support. But this is vanishing too. Products are converging. Go to your electronic store - rip off all the labels of TVs and see if you can tell one brand from the other ? . Its time to re-think these arcane ideas, values and business propositions that seem to be coming to a natural end.

Many of the skills that are gained through education are not necessary anymore. Please take a look at www.spore.com . Powerful online design tools and online design communities are enabling non designers to create stuff. Look at what flicker did to Photography - it uplifted mass photography to a very hi-level. Communities help each other to learn - very uch like the crits that go on in design school. Isn’t this education ?

I have to disagree with this. I would argue that “industrial design” has been around far longer than the industrial revolution. I have often considered Blacksmithes some of the earliest “industrial designers”. Designing tools and weapons for “mass production”. Not the same word “mass” as applies to the post industrial world, but mass none the less.

I put “industrial design” in quotes b/c I have come back to questioning the branding of our industry. Industrial Design is a sub-set of Design (capital “D”). Capital “D” Design encompasses far more than just ID.

Anyone can do what we do. And I do believe anyone. But it is the depth and level of understanding.

I can change spark plugs. But I am not at risk of risk putting my neighbor mechanic out of business.

I have to disagree with this. I would argue that “industrial design” has been around far longer than the industrial revolution.

Every profession is under evolution, has been and will be. The rate of change is exponential. New professions will emerge and old ones will die or re-invent themselves to serve new needs and realties that are outside the control of those professions.

Take a look at what every shoe company is trying to do : http://no-retro.com/home/ not very successfully. Take a look at what sweet companies are trying to do : http://replicatorinc.com/blog/

Customers are designing. Now, are they designing to the same quality ? customers don’t seem to care. they are willing to pay 30 to 60% more for what they design than what others have designed for them. Personal Fabrication for Dummies -- Teaching Videos at Replicator, Inc. - Mass Customization & Open Innovation News

Would it not be better for designers participate in this ?

Customer created designs is unlikely to happen without designers. Designers need to think and work differently. Not sure if that is too much to ask.

SK- youre pretty condescending to designers my friend. The reason you are getting any response is that you are here disparaging graphic designers. Most of us are not concerned. Its not a threat really. Whats the worst that could happen? We become lego designers- designers of parts and designs that can be put together and customized by consumers. But even Lego has an ID team and legos come with an instruction manual. The people who were paying for websites before are still paying for them. The tools are easier so more people join in- big deal. Still more coders than ever.

I love industrial design programs, and am constantly thinking of ways to improve interface designs and workflows. Eventhough I have a lot of ideas, I would still need to get a coder to put that into practise. There are too many things to learn along the way that even if I said" I want the curves to be created with a pressure sensitive stroke.", “I want my CAD form to be a set a fuzzy particles that slowly firm up the same way that I detail a sketch” quantifying and designing that feature takes a bit of in-depth knowledge. I would rather spend my time designing products rather than the programs that design them.

User generated product designs are an important factor in the future, but I dont think that RP is the way it will manifest. The more probable method I see is transparency from factories- easily available quotes from factories similar to how protomold does their work. Right now finding a factory is not a very easy thing. I believe that smart factories will make it easier for designers, marketers and consumers to get information and design evaluation.

Even software is hit and miss with open source. I am not sure why Apache is so successful, while Blender has the most gourd-awful UI design in existence. To me it seems like open source does not ever produce new innovation. If ever there was a truly innovative feature, it will always be in a traditional “designed” software. Thats the only way to make money for the person taking the effort of coding and designing a program.

Hmmm… some times I wonder why I write in a forum of people who are in the business of establishing their young professions into some thing that is valued by society and industry. Perhaps I do them harm. But that is not my intention.

I attempt there to point out the significant changes that are now taking place , the challenges and opportunities that it presents. Sorry if I sound condescending. Perhaps this is the wrong forum.

Hmmm… some times I wonder why I write in a forum of people who are in the business of establishing their young professions into some thing that is valued by society and industry. Perhaps I do them harm. But that is not my intention.

I attempt there to point out the significant changes that are now taking place , the challenges and opportunities that it presents. Sorry if I sound condescending. Perhaps this is the wrong forum.

It seems as though you’re trying spark a reaction. Everyone has heard this all before, it’s not new. Like MasterBlater said today, most of the customisable products out there today mostly involve graphics. 3D printing in consumers homes is hypothetical, you seem pretty certain it’s heading that way though…

Nobody has said they’re reluctant to change, they just don’t agree that it’s going to pan out the way you believe it will. I think there are other more realistic issues that are happening today that will have an impact on us as designers that we should consider. e.g. the economy, consumption, sustainability, another industrial revolution.

You seem pretty set on trying to ‘scare’ everyone with your prediction of change, so why not discuss subjects that are a bit more realistic and relevant than ‘so what if everyone had a 3d printer?’

This was so hashed out in this discussion:

No one wants to reheat this topic again so soon. I didn’t even read any of the posts, but I’ll say this. In the movie Star Trek, that have that “replicator” thing where they can get whatever they want whenever they want. Do they ever get anything new with that 3d printer? Nope.

3d printing will go to the masses at some point. The first thing that will happen is that there will be an open source online database of Mechwarrior robots, or Dungeon & Dragons figures and dorks will print them out an paint them.

After that, a company like Apple will realize they can make money on that database. They will work with Rashid, or Stark to do a specific collection of simple 1 part products like Salt and Pepper shakers, with 101 variations. You will download the file for 10.99 and print it, unmodified.

Manufactures no longer manufacture products. Apple is not a manufacturer, they have vendors do that. They are now a Brand management house. Instead of sending 3d files to vendors, they will send them to you, for you to print out.

I don’t have more to add that hasn’t already been said (great summary, BTW, Yo. I’d put money on that prediction if possible) except the following-

  1. just because you can, doesn’t mean you will. Most people have easy access to build their own furniture ($300 of tools and supplies at Home Depot would likely get you enough for a table and chair) but most don’t.

  2. just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Powerpoint presentations, 1000 fonts in Microsoft word. Nuff said.

  3. Just because you can and you should, doesn’t mean it will be good. Take a look at a SkyMall catalog or your average Walmart and you can find enough crap designed by trained designers that is still garbage. Think the average Joe who doesn’t have the training and skills can do any better?

Design is not about the tools, it’s not about the result (in a way), it’s about the process, insight and thinking that go along with it. These things, all technology aside will keep design in the hands of designers for the most part, IMHO.

No doubt there will be a few exceptions of great things produced by non-classically trained designers, but I certainly do believe in the big picture our jobs our safe.



R

And those non-classically trained designers will probably see this as a way into the design world. That’s a great thing.

Zazzle was brought up as an example. 99% of the stuff on there is shit. Threadless on the other hand has a loooaad of great design and that is because its worth it for good designers to get involved (I.E. they get paid).

When things hit critical mass and there is so much of it in the wild, the act of sorting though to find the good stuff is exhausting. Good Design will always have a place and if you think access to making something is the only prerequisite to good design, then I’m afraid we disagree.