How to think like a Designer Maker
The days of designing and creating in one's workshop or studio and selling to the local public are long gone. Today's designer maker has a global world before them and they need to create and think within this context. The designer maker of today needs to navigate the world around them to find their place within it. To do this the designer maker needs to think in ways that are unique and unprecedented.
Each designer maker has unique craftsman skills and design knowledge. Before they even begin the process of creating a designer maker needs to address questions such as: What are my strengths? What design issues appeal to me? What materials do I work best with? And What ideas can I bring to my work? These questions will determine what direction the designer maker chooses to take in relation to their work.
From the idea to the design
A designer maker can get inspiration from various sources; both historical and contemporary. They can take into consideration design principles, the work of other designers, general trends within mainstream society and the like. The designer then needs to bring all these influences and thoughts together and create a coherent idea (or ideas) that will be conveyed through their creation.
Once the design concept is established the designer needs to consider how best to represent the idea in tangible form. To do so they may first need to address the limitations of their craft, materials and technologies. They can then begin to see how best to manipulate their craft to achieve their desired design goal.
An example of how an influence can be turned into a design can be seen in the designer Kate Marsden who goes by the name of Mrs M. Mrs M is a textile designer who creates work that features many images of London. Her designs are digitally printed onto fabric and other products such as stationary. She writes “I started using my paintings of mid-century architecture in my designs after a short course at Chelsea College of Art a few years ago, where I ended up painting the 1950s office blocks on the opposite bank of the Thames”. 1 The ability to draw from inspiration such as the scenes around us and turn this into design works is typical of the designer.
Collaborating with artisans and craftsman
The designer maker is now able to draw inspiration and assistance from other designers and artists. Platforms such as Thingiverse a brooklyn-based platform for artist and designers, which was created by Zach Smith and Bre Pettis, are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular. Through Thingiverse artist, designer and engineers are able to share digital design files.2 Such initiatives give the designer maker ways to get feedback on his ideas and enables them to be privy to the insights of others within their field.
Another example of collaboration between designer makers is the Maker Dozen. The Maker Dozen are a group of Manchester based makers who undergo a process of collaborative exchange between themselves. They exhibit their work together and their exhibitions cover a wide range of activities including product design, furniture making and fine arts. Their emphasis is on the made. The “Makers Dozen provide a platform for designers to bounce off each other, learn new skills, and gain much needed exposure.”3
The designer maker as manager and sales person
The designer maker also needs to go beyond the realm of ideas and creation. Today the designer maker also needs to be a business person. They need to consider all sorts of issues that relate to the management and sale of their product.
Such considerations include tailoring their product to a specific niche area. This involves deciding who their target clients are and what price these clients expect to or are willing to pay. The presentation of the final designer maker product is also crucial. If the designer maker is selling online they need to ensure that their website and images are of the highest quality possible. Above and beyond all this it is essential for the designer maker to have a solid marketing strategy. They need to be able to communicate to others what they are making and why it is a valuable commercial product.
So in today's global climate thinking like a designer maker is not a straight forwards task. Apart from being a good designer and a good maker the designer maker needs to think about how to turn an idea into a tangible product; how best to be a good collaborator; and how to be a good manager and organizer. This makes for a demanding, though hopefully fulfilling, pursuit.