Sharpen Your Knives

Okay, I’ve gone on about the future of design both on this blog (as recently as earlier today actually… well, kinda), and on the Core77 design forums and elsewhere. If the Industrial Design community doesn’t want to listen to me, read these clips from an entry on (Link):

As fabrication technologies take on an increasingly digital form, this distinction will become less clear. When I send you a copy of Firefox, what I’m actually sending is a set of instructions telling your computer how to organize bits of magnetic material on a hard drive to create another instantiation of Firefox. Similarly, at some point in the next decade or two, I will be able to send you a “copy” of my phone simply by sending a set of instructions telling your computer how to organize bits of carbon in a desktop nanofactory to create another instantiation of a phone. Very soon, a more software-like open source physical world paradigm will become possible.

But what will really make a big difference will be the emergence of tools allowing you to take that set of instructions for the phone and modify it to meet your particular needs prior to it being printed out.

I suspect that professional product or architectural designers are already sharpening their knives — clearly, this is a scenario in which everyday citizens don’t necessarily need the full range of services from designers to accomplish some otherwise moderately sophisticated tasks. But just as it’s possible but not desirable to use the tools to modify Firefox in order to use it as a word processor, these “plug-ins” for physical objects wouldn’t be a substitute for dedicated design. Furthermore, someone has to come up with the code for how the plug-ins work in the first place — this scenario doesn’t eliminate designers, just moves them up the food chain a bit.

Are your knives sharp?