In your analogy to mp3’s only a small percentage of users chop the files up and mix custom music, and little of that cutting, editing, mixing and mashing, would be seen as original new music, and the general public has tired pretty quickly of mash ups.
Well, I wasn’t really talking about users manipulating the files to create new music, (which I agree is limited to a very small percentage), more that the iTunes distribution model has a lot less associated costs than the traditional LP/CD model. And that digital files are far easier to share, whether legally or illicitly, than physical products.
A lot of great products never see the light of day because they are too much of a risk to bring to market. Consumer fabrication through downloads will allow professional designer to bring beter designed products to all consumers without having to go through the filters of development and marketing.
This is a really good point. Part of the reason why these products are seen as risks is because mass production tooling requires them to be manufactured in large quantities in order to get a return on the investment. In the kind of scenario you outline, the upfront costs are much lower, which would hopefully mean a manufacturer would be more willing to take risks.
this would be a great way to identify design potential. A small percentage of users will actively pursue and perfect this. Amateur designers who may not have been given a shot will rise above the masses of poorly customized products and can be identified, trained and brought into the fold.
This is what games companies do a lot. It’s quite common for them to hire people who have proved their talent by creating innovative or popular mods. What’s also interesting is that games companies have (with a few exceptions) encouraged the modding community, they even release development kits to make it easier (whilst protecting the code that defines the ‘core’ of the game). Part of my research is looking at whether this is a model that can be transferred to the manufacture of physical products, products which have some elements that can be modified or redesigned and other elements which are ‘fixed’. That’s what I mean by saying in future part of the industrial designer’s role will be defining the parameters within which customisation can take place.
Just to make it clear, I’m in no way saying that all consumers are going to be interested in, or capable of, designing products. What I think will happen though is that people ‘outside’ a company or brand will get involved in that brand’s design process. Other people might like the ‘outsider’s’ designs more than the officially sanctioned ones. And the way that brands react to this will be really interesting.