Radical openness is the growing ground for a vivid grassroot maker and hacker culture, where the people driving it develop tools and platforms to make, remake and reshape their own and others’ products or designs. Hacker culture has long been limited to traditionally virtual spaces, but with the rise of 3D-printers, hackers and makers have never before had such momentum to connect both digital and physical worlds.
This type of so-called Craft Punk Design has the potential to create a great power shift in tomorrow’s markets. Within this design movement, consumers sponsor new ideas and buy the products generated from crowdsourced ideas, making it possible for them to take part of the journey from idea to production and match demand with supply. So far, many Craft Punk Design initiatives and projects are being implemented on major digital communities but in minor designs, such as Threadless and Etsy. Threadless is a creative community – and a fast growing multi-million dollar company – that makes, supports and buys work from artists. Users vote for their favourite T-shirts, the creator of the most popular design receives funding and a batch of T-shirts are produced and sold through the website. Etsy unites creative people who make and sell homemade DIY-craft, such as jewellery and knitwear. The product providers on Etsy create their goods on demand, with the possibility of individual tailoring. In August 2013, 5.5 million goods were on this digital market place.
The main breakthrough in DIY-production and distribution is however the 3D-printer, where anyone can design and print their own physical objects, or download someone else’s design for printing. 3D-printing is still in its infancy, with individuals and corporations experimenting with the possibilities the technology entails. Retailers and producers are figuring out the opportunities and threats around this new technology, which opens up for even more tailoring and personalised products as well as threats where design sketches are feared to be hacked and spread illegally to the masses.
Also, hacking culture has reached new heights when it comes to the physical world in the form of buildings. New buildings need performance strategies to meet the expectations and requirements of tomorrow’s tenants. But, existing buildings may pose even more interesting opportunities, as shifting demographics, technology and ageing building stock open opportunities to actively evolve yesterday’s buildings in staying relevant and up-to-date. For instance, Gensler’s Los Angeles office selected a building designed in 1971 for a bank branch at City National Plaza that had been vacant for nine years. Numerous sustainability and design strategies successfully turned an outdated structure into a dynamic, high-performance work environment. Gensler also hacked the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C. and proposed a series of changes to open up the building to the public. This included adding new windows, internal atriums, public plazas and entrances.
Designers of interiors and products should draw on experience of how design can be subverted by individuals, and embrace this.
This re-appropriation of buildings, changing their use from their original purpose, is something relevant also on a smaller scale, particularly where workplace design is concerned and individuals hack places or objects to suit their needs. After all, we often see well intentioned and thoroughly designed workplaces being used in ways not anticipated by their creators. On one hand, breakout areas may be left unused for long periods because they are too public, or that this sort of lounging runs counter to the company’s culture.
On the other, collaboration spaces, such as the work pods in places like Google Zürich, are popular for focused solitude rather than the meetings for which they were intended. We are living in an age where life hacking, whether it be creating new ways of using an object or space, is becoming more accepted and these hacks can help create insight into how places and products should really be designed.
This article has been taken from the Kinnarps Trend Report 2015. Click here to download the full research paper.