frog: What Can Professional Designers Learn From The DIY Crowd?

The internet has reshaped many a social hierarchy, is it now effecting the breakdown of the creative class?

It used to work something like this: when you had a design problem, you called in the pros. Let’s say you sought the ultimate ergonomic office chair, or a device that redefined portable audio. You called in the industry elite to create an innovative product for you. For decades, we’ve approached design as the province of experts. But in recent years, there has been an explosion of user-generated design. Talented people are going it alone and bringing their designs directly to market.

What changed? In short: the Internet. The web has provided budding entrepreneurs with easy access to the materials, manufacturers, and talent that previously required corporate relationships and massive scale to acquire. It also allows entrepreneurs to better understand what they should be building – just by asking around online. It even provides the market, giving vendors access to scores of potential buyers through the web. Without the up-front costs of brick-and-mortar stores, it’s easier than ever to reach an audience and make a buck. And, when anyone can set up an Etsy store to sell knitwear, everyone is a designer.

Success stories are everywhere. The Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker, a recent project by John VDN and Vitor Santa Maria, has received raves from Wired.com, Core77 and BoingBoing. Designers by trade, John and Vitor recognized the need for a better portable speaker. The pair spent $50,000 of their own money to develop a prototype , then turned to Kickstarter to help fund their project. The site granted them a huge market of potential buyers and the ability to scale their project nearly risk-free. They’ve raised $938,771, nearly three times their goal. If they hadn’t met their $125,000 threshold, everyone who pledged would have gotten their money back, leaving John and Vitor free to refine the concept. Kickstarter’s low-risk, high-reward environment is exactly the type of online phenomenon that’s encouraging entrepreneurs to make their own stuff.

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[Written by Fabio SergioReprinted with kind permission from design mind, a publication of global innovation firm frog.]

Design Mind is a publication of global innovation firm frog that is updated daily to keep the design and innovation community updated with fresh perspectives on industry trends, emerging technologies, and global consumer culture. Learn more about design mind and frog.

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