“It’s time for the Maker Movement to become the ChangeMaker Movement.” Libby Falck, co-founder of The Coalition for Innovative Development, Education and Action (IDEAco) (Forbes.com, July 29, 2014)

“The heart of innovation is not technology, but people. Great innovators are able to deeply understand human needs and create useful solutions. Their approach is often facilitated by a variety of human-centered design skills including needs assessments, user research, interviewing and data analysis. Mostly, however, innovation simply requires empathy and experimentation.” Libby Falck, co-founder of The Coalition for Innovative Development, Education and Action (IDEAco) (Forbes.com, July 29, 2014)


Description

Innovation is the key word in nearly every industry these days. From big corporations to small-scale start-ups to individuals, everyone yearns to invent, renew or improve the world of tomorrow. Several factors are rooted in this new creative impetus.

The digital era has disrupted the traditional view of the creative classes: creativity is being democratised and a new generation of individual creators is growing.

First, technology has empowered a self-serving world, as it has amplified the means for anyone – at the office or at home – who wants to bring an object or service to life. Second, digital platforms are going beyond the level of action already acquired in the offline sphere in giving more opportunities to act (and talk, share, create, adjust). Moreover, the open source movement, built on the ‘marketplace of ideas’ and the scalability of collaboration, is swallowing the proprietary world. The digital era has disrupted the traditional view of the creative classes: creativity is being democratised and a new generation of individual creators is growing. A once highly visible creative elite has been submerged by a wave of mainstream amateur writers, photographers, filmmakers and artists, who can share their work digitally and have it validated by a vast audience. Third, individuals themselves can now innovate faster than companies can, and consumers are no longer content to wait. Instead, they are taking control as they know they can do what they want with a basic form and they are making incremental improvements that lead to a greater good. Today and even more so tomorrow, consumers will be able to learn more — and faster —  about products than the companies who make them can. Whether motivated by positive passions or activist attitudes, creative control and influence are the goals.

Creative spaces

The democratization of innovation, through “computer-assisted” design, prototyping and production, is becoming easier and less expensive thanks to the flourishing of dedicated spaces. Fablabs, hackerspaces, makerspaces, techshops, men’s sheds and repair cafés are all spaces that allow people to create their own products, and they are popping up at local libraries, community charities, and even in downtown cafés. Some are run by communities, some are genuine businesses, but all have a focus on inventing, making, changing (or ‘hacking’), repairing, tinkering, DIYing, creating and playing. In 2005 there were fewer than 20 ‘hackerspaces’; today there are over 1900 globally, according to the Wiki list. Overall, these communal spaces are a great opportunity for individuals to access – expensive and bulky – tools and machinery such as 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics, carpentry, jewellry making, glass, stone, metal work, and so on.

In 2005 there were fewer than 20 ‘hackerspaces’; today there are over 1900 globally, according to the Wiki list.

These places aim to support start up businesses, provide advice, pool skills, entice generations to pass on their expertise to others, or simply be a friendly place for those who like to tinker and hang out with like- minded people. They encourage initiative and enterprise, human interaction, skills and collective endeavour. What’s more, innovation being the contemporary motto of big corporations, they are starting to order their own in-office “fablab” services.

The maker culture

At home, while consumers have got crafty with DIY activities for a while, they are now going a step further with the maker culture, which is the contemporary, technology-based extension of the DIY culture. Driven by personal expression, in-the-moment enjoyment and the need to save money, individuals create both for themselves and their family or friends, sharing and repairing by necessity and by choice at the same time. Software is increasingly accessible to amateurs, and an ecosystem of spaces, services and platforms allows people to transform an idea into the design of an object, pass from a model to a prototype, to finally arrive at its manufacture and then its distribution. Media networks are now talking about the “maker community”, whose members are interconnected at a larger scale. Since 2006 the subculture has held regular events around the world like the Maker Faire, which in 2013 drew a crowd of 195,000 attendees. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3D printing, and the use of CNC tools. 3D printing in particular, allowing anyone to manufacture his or her own products, is truly making a revolution. The cost of an industrial printer has fallen dramatically, from around $800,000 in 1999, to around $15,000 today, according to The Economist.

In October 2012, leading 3D printing platform Shapeways – which provides 3D printing services to its community of designers and individuals – opened its Factory of the Future in New York, hosting 30 to 50 3D printers with the capacity to print 3 to 5 million objects annually.

Featured examples

Makerbox by Usbek & Rica

Credit: Makerbox’s Facebook page

Credit: Makerbox’s Facebook page

France-based company Usbek & Rica is about to launch the MakerBox , a project that is still in the prototyping stages. Built on the model of already popular SmartBox and WonderBox, the MakerBox will allow anyone to build an object, be it a table, beer bottle or cushion — among a myriad of other options – in a dedicated place with advice from specialists. Consumers can buy the box for themselves or offer it as a gift to a friend. There will be a catalogue listing all the partnering places from which makers can choose the most convenient in terms of location and opening hours.
France France, January 2015

InMoov

Credit: Inmoov.fr

Credit: Inmoov.fr

Soon, consumers will be able to create their own robot, using 3D printing technology and open source software. Gael Langevin is a French modelmaker and sculptor who has launched the “InMoov” project, designing the first open source life-size humanoid robot people can 3D print and animate. Replicable on any home 3D printer with a 12x12x12cm area, it is conceived as a development platform for universities, laboratories and hobbyists, but first of all for makers. Its concept, based on sharing and community, gives it the honor of being reproduced for countless projects throughout the world.
France France, January 2013

Fablab Amsterdam

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Located at the Waag in Amsterdam, Fablab Amsterdam is a fully equipped digital fabrication workshop that gives people the opportunity to develop concepts and make physical prototypes for new product ideas. Alongside the equipment, the Fablab staff will help you by bringing expertise in from CAD drawing to 3D modelling to fabrication principles to product. From laser cutter to moulding & casting to milling equipment to digital embroidery, the Fablab Amsterdam contains everything you need to produce accurate 3D models and prototypes of various materials and sizes. Besides access to the workshop, you can rent a number of spaces for presentations or discussions in the beautiful historical building that dates from 1488.
Netherlands Netherlands, 2013

Sweet Paul & The Makerie

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Sweet Paul, a food, craft and home DIY magazine and website, partnered with the Makerie to host a two-day participatory workshop in New York City in March 2014. DIY masters who are familiar with Sweet Paul’s pages taught the classes in a penthouse loft, which also served as a space for shared meals. The event sold out despite the hefty price of $1,595, which included workshop and material fees and meals, but not flights or hotel accommodations.
United States of AmericaUnited States, March 2014

Craft Nights

Credit: Ohhappyday.com

Credit: Ohhappyday.com

In March 2014, popular lifestyle blogger Jordan Ferney (of Oh Happy Day) revived her in-demand Craft Nights at her new San Francisco studio (two of the first three sold out). Ferney teaches some of the classes and occasionally brings in specialists. Guests leave with impressive goodie bags and enjoy noshes and treats while working. Though the workshops are geared for her local audience, in the comments section, out-of-town fans contemplate making the trip.
United States of America United States, March 2014

The Makies

Credit: Mymakie.com

Credit: Mymakie.com

MakieLab, a UK-based company, started with the simple idea to let people make and customize their own dolls using 3D printing; this created the Makies. Seeking partly to overcome the typical gender roles that come with toys – and dolls in particular – the aim is to bridge the gap between online and offline gaming. This has since extended into laser-cut dolls clothes and MakieLab games.
United-Kingdom United Kingdom, May 2013

LittleBits

Credit: Littlebits’s Facebook page

Credit: Littlebits’s Facebook page

LittleBits allows anyone, regardless of age, gender, technical ability, or discipline, to create electronics and circuits. The magnetized, Lego-style blocks snap together with no need for soldering, allowing the maker to easily create whatever electrical circuit they want. LittleBits is born out of the Maker Movement and they have been helping lead the Open Hardware Movement. That’s why LittleBits is open source and building a community of contributors who experiment, share online, and learn from each other’s creativity. Their designs are publicly available so that anyone can see, use and adapt them to their needs.
United States of America United States, January 2013

XYZ shoe

Credit:  Cargocollective.com

Credit: Cargocollective.com

Fashion designer Earl Stewart has created a pair of shoes with 3D printing technology. Called ‘XYZ‘ the project has used hyper-accurate 3D scanning in order to make a personalized pair of shoes. The ‘bits shoe‘ was made of a Selective Laser Sintered nylon sole with leather pieces on top. The designer first made three-dimensional scans of the feet to ensure a perfect fit. The leather piece was laser cut and then perforated before stitching. The last step was to combine the 3D printed sole with the top. Each one was designed from 3D scans of the individual’s foot to ensure the right fit. the results were then sent to a multi material 3D printer which translated the scans into a seamless object, made from a composition of different mediums that offer flexibility and support.
United States of America United States, May 2013

Tesla Motors

Credit: Steve Jurvetson’s flickr page

Credit: Steve Jurvetson’s flickr page

American car company Tesla Motors has made the world buzz with the launch of the first-ever open source electric vehicle. By announcing the sharing of their patent portfolio with other companies – “All Our Patents Belong To You” – and acting in ‘good faith’, they greatly surprised the whole car industry. The company’s goal is actually to entice other automakers to adopt their new technology to develop their electric cars, in order to position Tesla in the epicenter of the green car revolution. The company is in talks with automaker BMW on electric vehicle collaboration opportunities.
United States of America United States, June 2014

Business & Marketing guidelines

1

Put your consumer at the heart of the initiative and allow them to express their creativity. Embrace the common will to create and innovate autonomously as well as people’s motivations to hack, tinker, patch up and repair their things. Empower your consumers who clearly want to act – and act in a sustainable way.

2

Stop top-down control as it simply no longer works for Millennials. Instead allow them to modify products to suit themselves and accept that they will influence brands in general.

3

Become an open source brand: give up control of the product and share previously confidential design files for your maker community customers to modify.

Summary

  • Innovation is the key word these days. From big corporations to small-scale start-ups to individuals, every one desires to be part of inventing, renewing or improving the world of tomorrow.
  • Creativity has never been so accessible thanks to the proliferation of new creative spaces such as fablabs, hackerspaces, makerspaces, techshops, men’s sheds and repair cafés.
  • In 2005 there were fewer than 20 ‘hackerspaces’, today there are over 1300.
  • The maker culture is a more contemporary, technology-based extension of DIY culture. And 3D printing, allowing anyone to manufacture their own products, is truly making a revolution.

Experts that we recommend

delphine-chenuet Delphine Chenuet & Marc Chataigner
Co-founders of fablab WoMa
anne-gautier Anne Gautier & Quentin Billey
Co-founders of fablab Draft Ateliers
louisdavid-benyayer Louis-David Benyayer
French researcher & consultant about new business models & author of book Open Models (Without Model, 2014)
etienne-delprat Etienne Delprat
Author of book Système DIY (Alternatives, 2013)
nora-mandray Nora Mandray & Hélène Bienvenu
Co-authors of webdoc DIY manifesto
jeremiah-owyang Jeremiah Owyang
Chief catalyst & founder of Crowd Companies, which focuses on how large companies tap the collaborative economy, maker movement, and customer collaboration.