Are you a maker? Have you ever in your life created an object, a thing, that solved a problem for you, or was just a nice thing to have? And if you have, did you, while constructing it, give a thought about what the end product would look like? If you’re in the hacking/maker scene, there is a high chance you didn’t. You probably created a square box to put your electronics in, or used left-over materials from your previous project. Basically, this is how all first prototypes are being made. They are meant to function first. Design is not important in this phase. And if you’re really a maker, you don’t really care about form, if you’re really honest. You can admit it, this is no crime.
As long as your thing stays at your desk or is only shared between your friends at the maker space, function being more important than form is just fine. Yet, there comes a time you’re tempted to share your thing with a much wider audience, including the ones who dó care about looks, because deep at heart you dream about making money with making things. Secretly, you’re hoping your thing goes viral, the blueprint gets bought by a company for an insane amount of money or you get enough requests for a copy you can actually start your own business building them.
But the chance of your typical maker space thing going viral is very small.
You may not realize this, but the interest in self-creation is on the rise. Think of all the maker spaces, FabLabs and hacker spaces that opened up in the past decade. It’s not the typical young pale male joining these labs, it’s also the female jewelry designers, the industrial designers looking for a space to create rapid, cheap prototypes and the occasional hedge fund broker who is desperate to work with his hands in his spare time. And think about all the people who bought a 3D printer. Many of them are not good at creating designs themselves, so they browse online to find things to download and print. These are the kind of people that care about looks and feel of an object.
So if you haven’t thought about your potential reach for the things you share online, this is the time to do exactly that. Your design tells a story, and you should think about the story you want your thing to tell before uploading your files for others to download. Take the time to add proper descriptions and tags to your object, because that is how people will find your thing. Tell about the reasons for making the thing, what problem it solves, how you created it. Perhaps you’re even hoping for others to build upon your thing. Then tell them what you think is missing, or could be added and improved.
The digital machines for making things become more and more affordable. My guess is it will not take that long for many households owning them. Therefore, if you start paying attention to your designs right now, you know you have your story ready to tell once the machines become mainstream.[divider]
*This post was inspired by the workshop Ronen Kadushin gave at ThingsCon 2014 on Story-telling based Design Process.