1. The consumer as producer
The previous century’s mass-market offerings were far from ideal, but what alternatives were there? Now, with technology’s reach, there’s a whole world of possibilities.
“Instead of relying on mass production, designers can now make smaller one-offs that are accessible to customers through blogtailing, emporiums and social networks,” explains Laura Slack, Managing Director of contemporary interior brand store Places And Spaces. This communication loop between consumers and smaller producers creates a whole new way for us to become involved in a company’s decision-making process. After all, if enough buyers ask for a chair in apple green, manufacturers with smaller production runs may be able to action this; and, as supply more closely matches demand, the process becomes less wasteful.
“The power for defining which products are successful will increasingly lie with consumers and less with retailers and mass manufacturers,” explains Jon Blake, Head of Product Development at Bloom Baby. “There is a shift back to pre-industrial values when items were crafted to a specific customer and purpose.”
Involving the buyer as a part of the process is also demonstrated in the variety of products being created specifically for the user to ‘complete’: modular pieces that are left for the buyer to most-appropriately configure; chairs made with a finish intended to be drawn upon. This also gives the product a double function: it’s a useful object (for example, a playhouse), and a creative game (a blank canvas for drawing upon). “It’s important to leave room for imagination, association and creativity,” says Romy Boesveldt, Head Designer with Kids On Roof. This adds a new dimension to the next generation’s experience of design, as memories are created (and made permanent) in the process of ‘finishing’ the product.
So buyer beware – it is now you who hold the future of design in your hands.