Designer and Customization/Personalization

Have been thinking about this for a while since aspects of it have come up in a few recent threads about the iPhone (bumpers) and cars (mods)…

As designers, do you personalize/customize the objects you own? Do you have a custom skin for your phone UI? Do you have a case for your phone? Do you mod your car? Do you have all kinds of widgets on your computer desktop?

Far as I can tell, designers tend to go strongly one way or the other. Some have everything 100% stock. Some mod everything even going so far to make something in a shop to customize a product.

I find it the psychology behind the extremes interesting. On one hand, (myself for example), there are those designers that seem to select products very careful, and choose the best they can find that does everything they want. There is perhaps a respect for the product’s design/designer so stock is the ultimate expression of good design selection.

Then, there are the designers who feel they can improve a product and inject some of their own creativity and problem solving to improve a product or make it fit their individual needs.

As mentioned, I love stock. I have one of the default Mac desktop pictures. I can’t stand the thought of an iPhone case. Unless an original option and period correct I don’t like different rims on cars. The thought of new rims on a vintage car makes me cringe. About as custom as I’ll have is a different background image on my iPhone.

Thoughts? Which way do you go?


I’m a mostly stock guy with everything but bicycles. For the most part, I don’t customize/mod etc. things I have because I’m afraid to ruin what I have. I haven’t touched a thing on any car (except maybe a new stereo system when I was in high school), and I tend to keep my computers, phones, stereos, etc. fairly stock and minimal. However, I do appreciate customization (for the most part) and tend to question myself why I never do it, when I see it done well. Co-workers of mine have all kinds of random workstation decorations around their cubes that seem to have meaning and purpose (to the outside observer), and yet mine is completely devoid of anything aside from some pictures of my kids…

Bikes on the otherhand… I’m very particular about. And I think that’s just because I’ve spent so much time working in shops and riding that I know exactly what I want now. And what I want is not available as stock.

Love to hear what others have to say.

Can’t think of anything except painting a TV wall mount black. Couldn’t stand having a shiny metal bar behind a black TV on a dark wall (it is visible from certain angles, I’m not Steve Jobs).

I do some stuff with the computer, i e set a new wallpaper when I see one I like, change UI to be more minimal (like remove toolbars, smaller/larger icons etc). Same with phone.

Generally I’m a stock guy though. It’s not like I follow it as a principle, but I find that things that can be modified are often too superficial and it’s just not worth it. I actually remove things more often than add. Like cut off loops on a backpack I never use, or a lid on some storage bin that that I would have no reason for opening/closing all the time etc. I guess you could call that personalization, but it has nothing to do with self expression. Although it inevitably tells something about me anyway.

On a tangent, I thought of all this consumer 3D-prnting hype, that people are going to make all kinds of stuff for themselves, and personalize objects. Many of us have had access to this for a long time, and the knowledge how to. So have anyone actually ever done something like this, I mean use 3D printing for private use?

Everyday items like cars, phones, pc-s I like 100% stock. It is because I appreciate their original design and adding aftermarket gadgets usually ruins it. I don`t even have any car freshners or talismans hanging from the center mirror in my car. No stickers, no unnecessary stuff at all.

Specifically purpose built stuff however is completely different territory for me.
My bike is built from different components and the choice criteria is function/feel (and price ofc) rather than brand or color.
I also like heavily modified offroad vehicles and think hot rods are cool as hell.

100% stock, with the exception of blacking out some branding. Modifications reseverved for converting into something new or evolved. In my personal scheme, facade customizing seems to me to be juvenile.

I prefer to call it fixing than moding. I’m rarely happy with products, but I always understand why they are the way they are. The designers and engineers were faced with a tight budget and most users are not as demanding as me.

For example, I painted one of my first computers red. I didn’t alter any of the design, just the color. I’m sure the designer looked at other colors but someone said, “beige is going to be 95% of the market, so we will just make beige computers.” On my car, I replaced the shift knob with one from a later model. It’s the way they should have been.

It comes down to if I think I can make it “Better” or not.

When I got my Acura, the car has remained 98% stock with the exception of some minor exhaust work. But I knew when I bought it I loved the interior, rims, exterior, etc - so that my “mod bug” wouldn’t exist.

With other cars I look at and realize “Well I like the car but I hate the wheels, would change the seats, need to replace the infotainment, it needs 2x the horsepower, etc”. I almost bought a VW Jetta TDI Wagon because it’s a great “Base” but once you see what they look like with some better wheels and a GTI bumper it’s a completely different personality. I realized quickly that any money I would’ve saved on gas I would’ve just poured right back into mods, and so I backed out.

Computers I’ve always modified to all heck. Flashy lights, water cooling, overclocking - in my opinion the majority of that is justified by the fact that I can take a chip that costs $200 and make it perform like a $1000 chip for an extra $200 worth of upgrades. Since that translates into real world performance it’s totally worth it to me.

On my phone I am mixed. I jailbreak my iPhone (with OEM bumper), but I keep the UI 99% intact - but there are some tweaks that make the device clearly better (many of which were incorporated into iOS 5), but I don’t bother changing all the icons since almost every set of “Aftermarket” icons is far worse than what Apple has produced. Plus some of the jailbroken software like being able to tether for free is essential to me. Why pay $25 a month for tethering when I can do it for free with data that I’m already paying AT&T for?

No modding here… just buy things that I consider to be the best the way they are.
I too refuse to put a case on m iPhone… much to the dismay of practically everyone else with an iPhone I know.

Also, on a side note, naxkt mentioned blacking out branding… I, personally, never buy anything with overly zealous branding… I won’t wear anything with big obvious logo’s. One thing that always bugs the hell out of me is seeing a car that has a huge ugly looking badge attached to the car of the dealership it was purchased. If I ever brought a car from such a place and they put that on I would return it and demand my money back!

One thing that always bugs the hell out of me is seeing a car that has a huge ugly looking badge attached to the car of the dealership it was purchased. If I ever brought a car from such a place and they put that on I would return it and demand my money back!

In 1973 my dad ordered a boat-tailed Buick Riviera, it was gorgeous, bronze with cream colored vinyl top. The dealer called one evening to let him know that it had been delivered. We drove down there right after dinner to see it, but when we got there he discovered that the dealer had installed their die-cast dealer badge on the rear deck; it was screwed on. I can’t say that I’d ever seen my dad both really annoyed (at someone other than me), and so crest fallen; he’d been waiting for this car for six weeks or something like that.

It wasn’t the first new car dad had purchased from the dealer, but it was the first one that he had ordered. He told the sales manager that they could either pay him a couple of hundred dollars per month for the advertising space that they had “taken out”, remove and repair the damage, or cancel the sale (it was not anything that he had ordered, and it wasn’t “upgraded” equipment from Buick). They opted toR&R the trunk deck, but he was unhappy about the situation for a long time … almost like having it be involved in a fender bender before he ever got to drive it.

With regard to modding… earlier I could never leave well enough alone, add, subtract, whatever. But I’ve grown out of that phase in the last ten years or so … :wink:

I’m mostly stock. Whenever I modify something I feel like I’m second guessing the designer that made it in the first place. There are a couple of areas that I end up doing it though.

  1. The design was made to account for user customization. (desktop wallpapers, model kits with interchangeable parts and so on.

  2. The design is one size fits all and I feel that I can change it to more specifically fit my needs. For me this is less common than #1 but it happens.

I forgot my Nook Color. I installed a full version of Android on it. Definitely, the right thing to do.

I’ve got an entire laundry list of TO DO’s for my car. Being in college I’m extremely limited and have had some fun finding contacts that can help me with things and also exchange services. There’s just something that drives me to not have a unique car, but to have something that is as much my own creation as possible. I get ridiculed about it all the time from my parents because from a financial investment (which is what they view it as) it’s absolutely worthless to be doing these things, yet I persist. But I also see this as a vehicle I can maintain for the next 10 years (even though it’s already 10 years old) and will be cheaper than buying a new car once I graduate. Plus, it’ll just be more how I want it to be. I’m incredibly picky about the things that get done with my car though, and tend to not give a damn if others don’t like it :laughing:. Even though I’ve got a low-income for it; I’ve been able to await for deals and catch them-resulting in having some fairly rare things for my platform. Currently my car appears very stock… there’s big and small changes I’m wanting to do, but nothing that would make me stick out like a sore thumb.
This weekend I’m actually going to be taking some wheels I’ve exchanged services for from a friend to get, and will be getting them powder coated, painted, and then clear-coated in the following month. I’m also a huge car-forum user and have driven 13hrs 1-way for a national car meet generated from the forums.

As far as other things though, I rarely change much. I do keep my eyes peeled on details. Such as I was looking at some Nike’s last month and noticed that something in the manufacturing ruined (just barely, like you would only notice this because it’s sitting on the shelf) the line of a straight line/detail, so I got something else.

@Lmo - No free advertising! I’ve even removed most of the stock manufacturer stickers on my car.

I’ve actually wanted to ask about modding from a design point of view. Good timing and allows me to break in from lurking.

I do mod/hack quite a bit for a lot of my items. They range from basics such as increasing the memory on my laptop to (very extreme example) rebuilding my house (keeping foundation and some framework). It’s sort of like Cyberdemon on computers: I constantly find ways to make lower cost items perform like higher end. I’ll admit to having a DIY bug to customize rather than search for an item that fits my exact criteria and I find inspiration in odd places. I still can’t believe I managed to make the kind of drafting desk I wanted from IKEA’s tabletop, bed slats, legs, and a partially built desk. Or wanting to use this part from Item A to combine with another part from Item B that doesn’t have Item A’s part. Or just hacking something to use far from its intended purposes.

Everyone here seems to be stock and probably older, so maybe this is just a phase. However, a question: can hacking/modding/customizing/etc. be considered designing or even good design?

At the core of it, I want to say yes. You’re using a set of materials and processes to develop something new or unique and making it in a way that is better than the original (in your eyes). But, I think it’s such a grey area that you can’t really consider it Design. That’s not to take away from it at all, I think it just deserves to be placed in a different column.

Good question R!

I’m also a stock guy, at least in outward appearance. My TT has a bigger turbo and som mods but looks completely stock. I carefully curate the objects in my living room and fuss to no end with placement and accessories, but I would never mod anything. Same in apparel, I prefer simple basics, solid tees, solid hoodies, solid v neck sweaters, no graphics, but maybe a loud color, classic pattern button ups like hounds tooth or gingham, chinos or Levi’s, Chuck Taylor’s or wing tips… The personality comes from me, not the clothes.

Where I do stray from this is UI. I modify my icons and backgrounds with abandon. I actually have designed some functional backgrounds for myself that help me organize… I’ll post them…

Funny, I expected a lot more posts from the customized side of things. Seen so many previous posts here of designers modding cars, custom making phone cases, etc. don’t be shy. Let’s hear from all. I don’t think there’s a right and wrong take, I just personally strongly stand on one side of things (stock).

Also, let me add a twist- do you buy stock retail, or do you make your own…


It has happened quite a few times, specially when looking for furniture.
When I moved into my current apartment and needed furniture for it, I made most of it myself.
Didnt like what was available in big furniture stores and couldnt afford the design icons/special order stuff in boutique stores.

So I built the bed, closet, coffee table and some shelves from scratch.
For the price of typical cheap-to-medium range mdf products I was able to use quality birch and finishes.

Some lamps are still waiting to built…there`s just a light bulb hanging from the kitchen ceiling for the last 3 years :laughing:

I always lean towards stock. I will buy accessories that help protect my investments (iphone cover etc), but that’s usually for functional reasons.

I bought a used Jeep recently that had quite a few mods to it (couldn’t pass it up because of it’s condition/price). I really don’t like looking at someone else’s customization so I pulled out the upgraded CD player, and installed the stock radio which i bought on ebay. Now I just have to paint the rims back to an original color. Seems kind of anal, but I just want it to be what it is.

I also used to have a hacked iphone when AT&T was the only carrier. I couldn’t stand it when an ugly pineapple showed up when booting. I never did figure out how to make it original.

I’d say I tend to take control over the objects I own, but I don’t necessarily deviate from stock. Most of the time I spend tinkering with products to make them better is to actually just make a product that I could not buy. Android phones are a good example. I don’t want to use those manufacturer skins, so I have to run custom ROMs to get back to stock.

Bicycles often aren’t sold in the specific set of components I want, so I tend to build them myself.

I treasure finding products that I can just buy and be happy with without having to make changes. Unfortunately, I think that’s becoming more and more rare these days.

Here is a neat example of customization / personalization: