Monday, September 12, 2011

Digital Design Therapy/Shapeways Meetup

I went to a meetup yesterday that was hosted by the Digital Design Therapy group about the possibilities of 3d printing. There were speakers from Shapeways and design studios which use digital media as part of their design and manufacturing.
Though a lot of time was spent on the materials and capabilities of 3d printing, a few ideas on general design theory also came across as important.

More and more, people want the freedom to design their own products.
This is something that I have definitely been thinking a lot about lately. The democratization of design is kind of a threatening idea to me because its already hard enough to find work, but there is still a place for the professional in the future. Mary Huang showed a few of her interfaces which are designed to give people the tools to make products interactively. Ddress, an app on the Continuum Fashion website is an interesting example of this phenomenon. She designed the interface to give users complete freedom to choose form, but consciously limited them to black fabric and a low poly pattern. This helps people make something that is unique, but still fits into an overall aesthetic.

Like all manufacturing processes, 3d printing has unique properties and capabilities. Justify high cost by making things that cannot be made by other means.
Thee founders of Aminimal studio spoke about their lighting and jewelry projects which take advantage of the printers' ability to make highly detailed, complex forms accurately. It just doesn't make sense to print something if it can be made cheaply using another process. Similarly, designers from The Future Future showed their jewelry, which uses the freedom of 3d printing to generate unique but similar pieces. Because there is no master mold, there is no reason to make only version of a product.

All of the designers acknowledged the potential of this new technology to change the structure of manufacturing in a way that has not happened since the industrial revolution. I don't doubt it, and will be continuing to think about these new rules for design as we all should.

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