Our fourth year project has begun, and with it comes research! Our group has been working fairly closely with each other when it comes to research, and we've investigated a wide variety of topics.
Last week we talked to Luc Lalande, an innovation consultant. We covered a lot of ground, with topics ranging from education to hackerspaces to entrepreneurship. On his advice we attended this week's Artengine/ModLab meeting. The meeting was an exceptional experience, with hugely enthusiastic people with huge variety of interests and backgrounds attending.
There were two things that struck me. First, despite the huge variety of people attending, all that I spoke to had some sort of engineering or computer science background - the arts and design were all but absent (from an educational standpoint). Second, it was slightly intimidating (as a designer looking to produce a relevant product) simply due to the massive variety in projects on the go - they ranged from AI development to 3d printers to high-speed photography to lighting to undirected experimentation. As a designer, I'm looking for common wants and needs throughout a group that I can address in a product - this diversity, which is one of the great strengths of the maker movement, simultaneously makes product design a unique (but welcome) challenge!
We've been reading both online articles and physical books. I found Everett Roger's seminal business text, the Diffusion of Innovations, to be particularly relevant. One section of the book discusses what are called "lead users" - users that are so far to the left of the product adoption curve that they actually precede the existence of a product and create their own. These lead users are, in my opinion, the sort of people who form the maker movement.
We also researched, and have been investigating something called the SparkTruck, a project that places a variety of typical maker tools into a small truck, which then travels to a variety of schools to try to teach creative and maker skills to students. I think this concept has struck a chord with our group - the teaching of the Maker and DIY ethic has become a major discussion point with us, and something I feel may be well worth further investigation.
One last topic that our group has discussed several times is the role of technology in the Maker Movement. Many makers seem to use technology heavily in many of their projects, from microprocesssors to CAD to 3D Printing. While these are certainly useful tools, we wonder if their (sometimes excessive) precision and cost might be interfering with the iterative design process, and that their cost and complexity might be limiting the reach of the maker movement. Two questions that we keep coming back too are
What's wrong with glue guns and cardboard? (How can we enhance glue guns and cardboard? How can we combine the speed and abandon of cardboard with the advantages of more high-tech rapid prototyping?)
What is the KidPix of CAD? (Does it have to be digital? Why do we design physical objects with digital tools? How can we iterate faster between physical and digital?)