We’re delighted to have been asked to take part in FutureMaker Day, an RSA event that took place in the newly opened basement at Somerset House.
With a theme as general as future making we were keen to explore something that was important to us and, we hope, an interesting perspective on what matters for mass participation in making.
Our starting point was the theme of Design for Open Making, influenced by Open Design and what it means if everyone plays a key role in the specification, design, manufacture, adaptation and consumption of products. In other words, how do we move from an industrial manufacturing model to something far more democratic and relevant to what people use in their daily lives.
Why does this matter to us? Firstly, our whole approach is built around involving users in the design process. Secondly, the way we work often means that we’re asking people to make things themselves; to use physical prototypes to explore and develop designs.
Finally, the way we design and make products is changing. It’s easier to test, prototype and manufacture in an iterative way than ever before. Processes that work for designing services are becoming increasingly important in the design of products and we think it’s a huge opportunity to rethink the way people relate to the physical things they use.
What we wanted to do on FutureMaker Day was to explore collaborative processes through simple acts of making themselves; to provide basic materials and a simple framework to see how people would engage with making together. And that’s what we did.
Through some pieces of card and a couple of pairs of scissors we got visitors to our stand to create whatever they wanted. From a starting point of making something simple, providing instructions to others or specifying an end goal we observed as everyone took their own approach to creating something on the spot.
We opened it out further too. We asked people online to take part in the same way and post whatever they’d done on Twitter. And, as a last piece of the puzzle, we set all this open creativity against our own efforts, building our own construction on the other half of the table to see how we compared.
As it turned out we compared pretty poorly. While one half of the table was a rich seam of creativity our half of the table looked a bit sorry for itself. Despite some early promise we just couldn’t compete.
Competition wasn’t really the point, however. While we wanted to provide some incentives for people to engage with the process these turned out not to matter. As the day progressed it was the challenges people set each other that really influenced the making. We kept it simple so that these modifications could emerge and we were delighted to see just how much that started to happen.
So, our top observations from the day:
- Some of the most reluctant participants made the best work.
- Despite a brief to build to wards a common goal people generally found it easier to start with individual pieces.
- Some of the pieces people created specifically to be built upon didn’t attract modifications as much as the highly individual pieces.
- Almost nobody questioned what they were doing.
- People really enjoyed working with the written instructions left by others.
- A lot of work was made.
- Despite some very kind people sharing online very little was made this way.
Most importantly, we had some wonderful conversations with people, ranging from engineers and product designers to architects and digital makers. Both the conversations we had and the things that were made have given us lot to think about as we look at new projects.