Brand New Beginnings

We are assuming spring will show up someday here in Ohio. And with spring comes spring cleaning. And while we clean up the home office, and get rid of the random stuff laying around taking up space, we also start thinking about the rest of this year and the future. Fresh starts, new beginnings.

We’re going to make a push this year to work directly with more brands. Any time we can focus on brand, and solving marketing challenges by directly partnering with them, it’s going to be more effective, creative and engaging.

We have over two decades of working with brands, from large ones with fancy websites and in thousands of doors to small ones that barely have two dimes to rub together. It’s about making connections. It’s about writing your brand story and communicating that to the world in tangible, meaningful ways.

That’s what we do for you.

You are people, your customers are people. We connect people.

My touchy feely take may not be enough to prompt you to pick up the phone, so here are some service details. We like to truly partner with your brand so that we can understand how you operate, what your goals are (or help you craft those goals), and understand your brand and customers. Then we work with you to create meaningful connections, wherever the world interacts (or should interact) with your brand.

So, there’s nothing proprietary about creatively solving problems, or seizing opportunities if you’re hard core “glass is half full” kinda person. Thinking about this I’m going to frame up what we do in this list below. But every brand and situation is unique; this is the toolbox we have at our disposal, and kinda the order we work in:

  • relationship building – understanding your business, brand, challenges
  • research – trends, marketplace, materials, society, shopper mindset, culture
  • strategy – goals, ideation, role-play, finances, sourcing, foundation building
  • framing – articulating challenges, inspiration, reference,
  • concept – play, mock-up, long walks on the beach
  • design – visualization, human factors, ergonomics, user experience, wrestling
  • making – sourcing, pricing, specifications, engineering, programming
  • execution – construction, events, going live, maintenance
  • relationship building – identifying and understanding new opportunities

Straight up, these are the skills we bring:

  • strategy – design, marketing, in-store, online
  • graphic design – packaging, signage, web, environment
  • industrial design – retail, product, human factors, ergonomics, packaging
  • interior design – space planning, retail, some commercial and hospitality
  • UX (user experience) – web, interactive, retail
  • digital – web, SEO, digital marketing strategy, social media
  • interactive – kiosk design, event planning, in-store digital strategy
  • editorial – copywriting, social media, editing
  • support – creative capacity, sales support, sourcing

Services are services, and process is process. We try to keep it simple. We want this to be fun. We’d love it if we can meet with your brand team to find out how we’d approach connecting your brand to the world and see if we’d be a great fit. You can call me at (330) 858-8926 and let’s discuss. Thanks.

Now if we could just get spring to show up…

-Chris

visit us at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com.

Advertisements

New(ish) Inline Fixture at Target is Spot On

A little while back, on one of my several-times-a-week trips to Target, I spotted this Hearth & Hand upgrade to the Home department. Chip & Joanna Gaine’s brand Magnolia is pretty mainstream. We’ve even worked on a Magnolia project (so it really must be mainstream lol). So having an offshoot in Target isn’t surprising as the marketing arc completes itself.

I really liked the execution of the brand at mass retail. I stopped and (secretly…shhhh) snapped a few photos to share with you all. I don’t know who designed this but I think they did a decent job of creating a stage for Magnolia’s curated product offering of home decor and lifestyle products.

The overall look is clean and simple with a palette consisting of clear coated steel, matte black powder coat and a light natural (pine?) wood. Also there’s a nifty wood door looking panel on the show end cap. It give a contemporary look while honoring the authentic look that honors the brand. Shelves and fixtures are arranged, off of a standard gondola backbone, in a way that evokes “boutique”; once again, on brand.

Have these materials been used before?

You betcha.

Do they still work?

Yes indeed.

A hundred years from now retail designers will be using clear coated steel and natural wood together and it’ll work perfectly.

What would I fix? Really I’d fix the merchandising…we need some taller products in the boutique areas inline, where the shelves step down to create a stage. Instead we’re left with book holders or some other low product. And on the show end cap all the product is low. Gimmie a plant or something tall to keep my eye moving.

Kuddos to the framed hanging headers. I do this all the time on concepts because it’s simple and looks great – gets the message across in an elegant way allowing everyone to focus on brand not fixture. Nothing about this fixture is overdone, and the details – exposed welds, nods to board and baton siding, and barn doors – all work together to provide delight without stealing attention from the product.

I love seeing the exposed spot welds on the well proportioned shelf frames that are all meticulously lined up. Like saying “we’re artsy, yet organized”.

Spot on.

-Chris

 


 

Chris Weigand is a professional designer and artist (and politician and…) who operates a fun little boutique retail design consultancy in the middle of a National Park in Ohio. He loves shopping, or at least window shopping, whenever he can. If you’d like to have Chris and his wicked awesome partners work on putting art and strategy to your brand at retail or online, contact him today at (330) 858-8926. We are totally not affiliated with Target or Magnolia, we just dig the way they’re doing things.

I <3 Pet Store Signage

An impromptu stop at my local Pet Supply Plus reminded me of how much I love simple graphics. And pet stores, with their categorization by pet type is a no-brainer for fun icon driven way finding graphics. Other chains such as Petsmart and PetCo are just as adept at this. It makes shopping for pet supplies, and pets for that matter, more fun in my opinion.

In PSP they use simple one color (plus white) graphics with pet icons and simple copy such as “CAT”. In a world with overwrought design direction it’s refreshing to see something so simple make it to retail, creating a pool of calm in what would otherwise be a visually clamorous environment.

Breathe.

Ahh…

The store also had a cool community themed endcap, which presumably is customized based on each store location. DO THIS IN YOUR STORE!!! Our research shows that people want a better sense of community in their lives. This endcap is just an example. Do what is right for your store and your community…a coffee desk, amp’d up bulletin board, in-line display…inside…outside…but do something to break away from the big-box photocopy mode.

Lastly I’ll pick on all retailers for a minute. There was a neat Kurgo display that obviously someone spent a lot of great effort and money on, only to be marred by a bunch of repetitive paper call outs on the scanner plates. I don’t know what the answer is but please why do we have to do this. Maybe an extruded price strip across all the hooks and alternate between price and a “new” callout. Maybe don’t use white on the callouts, maybe black or chocolate to match in store, or blue or orange to match the brand. This is 100% just me though and my need for organization and simplicity. So don’t get too worked up over it.

The Kurgo display was pretty rad though with its subtle topographical easter egg on its shroud that keen eyes will delight in discovering. I’d love to find out how they did that (both made it and got it past the bean counters).

I love chain pet stores as a source of inspiration, especially for graphic design and way finding. Think about including them in your pool of resources for inspiration on your next brand or retail project.

And you can always pick up some food for your furry friend while you’re at it.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is a retail experience expert, lover of simple design solutions, and a cat person. His views are his own and he receives no compensation for give products, brands and retailers a shout out. Where he and his firm do get compensation is from bring awesome retail solutions to you. Contact Chris today to discuss your needs – store interior, store within a store, pop up, displays, fixtures….he and his team can help your brand create delightfully awesome retail experiences. 330-858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Retail Resolutions for 2015

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

Ten Retail New Year’s Resolutions You Can Make in 2015

It’s that fun time of year when we enjoy making lists for the new year. All the stuff we’re going to do, not do, or do better now that we’ve got a clean slate. I’m not immune from list making, so I thought I’d share ten retail related things I think are worth doing in 2015, to help make your retail experience the best it can be. They may not be monumental, or even new, but they are worth considering in the new year (every year really).

1) Create A Website For Your Business

I don’t care if you’re a name brand, a local shop or a plumber: you need an online presence. There are plenty of DIY website providers that have simple to use templates. Often they can host your site, provide you with a domain name, and an email address. For less than a couple hundred dollars a year, everyone will be able to find you, learn about your business, and know how to get in contact with you. Get at least one page up on the internet with your information. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. If you still don’t want to be bothered, sites like Facebook allow you to set up an online presence basically for free.

2) Start A Store 

Are you selling online? Take a stab with a physical retail space. Pop-up stores are becoming ubiquitous. These little temporary shops can be rented for short periods of time, sometimes for the day, and are usually found in high traffic areas that are favored by hip young shoppers. Often all you’ll need is your product, some in store marketing (i.e. signs) and your sales hat. Check out websites such as The Store Front to get started.

Do you have a physical store? Add a shop to your website, or get a free or  low-cost shop online on sites like Etsy (for art, antiques and crafts) where you can sell your goods.

3) Define Your Brand

Whether you’re new or you’ve been selling for a while now, try to take a look (or hire someone to take an unbiased look) at your business and your brand. Why do you exist? Answer that and then let that guide every decision you make about your retail business. And throw out anything that doesn’t add value to your answer; everything that does not contribute to your purpose. Understand your strengths compared to your competition and leverage those. Don’t be something you’re not. Customers want products from brands who have a clear vision of who they are. Insert obligatory Apple or Nike example here.

4) Omni-channel Sync

You’ve got a brand, your store and an online presence. That’s a good omni-channel retail experience. Now sync them all. Make sure your message is consistent, consistent, consistent…at every touch point consumers have with you. And constantly examine and rework any areas that are falling short. If you don’t have the time, then hire an expert in retail design, search engine optimization, graphic or web design to help you out. Subconsciously consumers can tell when you’re sending mixed signals, which can translate to lost sales.

5) Understand Your Customer

Consumers change whether you like it or not. Even if you have a highly specialized customer base that you think is impervious to the changing world, it is still important to make sure you understand their wants and needs. Advances in technology now allow customers to shop from any store in the world. Even die-hard loyal customers will peek around every once in a while just to make sure they’re getting what they want. Leave nothing to chance. Identify customer needs and provide top-notch customer service and goods. If you need help researching customers, market and trends, there are a plethora of professional resources out there that specialize in retail research. And don’t be afraid to go in a new direction if that is what your retail business demands.

6) De-clutter 

Yes, everyone loves the charm of hunting and pecking through an antique store. But unless you’re an antique store take a look at your retail environment and try to straighten things up a bit. Last year I was in a clothing shop and I could barely move between fixtures places a foot apart. It drove me crazy just being in the store. Yes some customers don’t mind, but then why even bother with all the fancy displays and fixtures; why not just put out cardboard boxes for them to rummage through? That would save you a lot of money.

Using your brand mission as a guide look at every element: fixtures, signage, props, product, way finding. Make sure everything speaks to your overarching message, but also make sure guests can navigate and shop in a clear, fun, rewarding manner. For example, if you’re stuck with an eclectic collection of metal fixtures, paint them all the same color to create some consistency. Create aisles that can be navigated at the very least. The retail experience is why you’re selling your items in a store instead of from a shoebox on the sidewalk. Good design, a good retail experience, does not cost any more than a dismal experience, and it will make you more money in the long run. Know when to bring in outside help if necessary. It’s not always a DIY type of project.

7) Get Flexible

You need tools that work for you in your retail space. While it’s fun to peruse catalogs, or buy props, simplify your display and fixture offering by utilizing flexible merchandising systems. Typically they share parts, are easy to tailor to your changing retail landscape (once you figure out how they go together) and they help give some consistency to your visual merchandising. Even if you’re using all found objects, use items that can be used in a variety of ways. A crate that can be a table, box or seat maybe. And if you can swing for new fixtures, make sure they all use the same accessories so you can mix up your merchandising as the year progresses. Modular display systems should be “updatable” as well, so as styles change you can switch wood tones, graphics or color accents.

8) Amp Up Visual Impact

Graphics (i.e. signage) is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to amp up your retail experience. Large format graphics attract from far away. Good way finding helps guests find departments and products. A consistent signage package is an extension of your brand message. You can now direct print onto virtually any substrate including wood and glass. And printing has become very environmentally sustainable. As a subset of visual impact, if you don’t want a ton of signs in your store, utilize awesome store window displays, and props to get your message across. Lastly, let your product and it’s packaging sing. No need for the display to fight the product or retail experience.

9) Store Within A Store

Creating a boutique retail experience has always been a great way to generate interest and help guests navigate. A large percentages of our projects are these types of projects. Pick a brand in your store, such as a purse manufacturer if you’re running an apparel store, and allocate a specific area for that product. Amp it up with special displays, flooring, lighting, and signage. And feel free to change these areas out seasonally or tailer areas for different brands. Go to any big box or department store (such as JC Penny with their in house Sephora shop) and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Regardless of your store size, and even if you’re only on-line, you can set up an enriching store within a store experience.

10) Have Fun

Ultimately figure out why you’re in retail and pursue the things that make you and your customers happy. Try different things. Challenge conventional thinking. And have fun.

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a full service retail design agency that specializes in designing interiors, displays, fixtures, packaging and graphics for retail stores. They also provide expert retail market research and environmental sustainability consultation services. Chris has designed retail solutions for retailers such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and product companies including American Greetings, Valspar, Step2, Flambeau Products, and Energizer.

No project is too large or small. We add value to your business through design expertise, and provided you with the expertise you need, allowing you to focus on your business. Contact us today at (330) 858-8926 or visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information

We do not endorse any companies or products mentioned on our design blog. They are for reference purposes only. Utilized goods and services from these companies at your own risk. Happy new year.

Customer Service Is More Important Than Anything

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

 

A recent customer service experience reinforced in my mind, how important customer service is to your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, product maker, service provider – understand your customers and how to take care of them. That should be the number one rule for your business.

A Bad Buying Experience

In my example I was simply a customer looking to use a dealer parts coupon to get $80 off of a $1,000 set of run flat tires. Not a big deal, and I had cleared it with a service representative when I made the appointment. Turns out they wouldn’t honor our agreement when I went to drop my car off. They explained the price was already discounted (it wasn’t, I had checked pricing and got several other quotes which were in line with the dealer’s price quote) and I was getting a good deal (I wasn’t – install was $25 / tire and they were going to make me get an alignment).

So despite the fact my family woke up early and drove across town to help me drop the car off, I walked out, taking my business, and future business elsewhere.

Now whether you think I over reacted or not (I didn’t), it was so refreshing as a consumer to feel empowered. I don’t have enough time, money or desire to play games as a consumer. I had another tire dealer on the phone before I was out of the parking lot and they took care of me. The dealer lost a long time customer (we’ve bought three cars there) over an $80 discount.

Focus On Customer Service

Successful businesses build mutually beneficial relationships that encourage people to part with their money, goods or services in exchange for money, goods, or services. To me this is what customer service is: building, managing and maintaining those relationships.

Business is not just “business” if you want to be in business for long.

There are so many options for spending one’s time and money in this omni-channel world. Customer service is the most important aspect of business. Guests are more informed and have less perceived time more now than ever. Yes, they will linger or buy on a whim, but more often they do their homework and have the value of something in mind before they buy. They know what they want, how much they are willing to pay, and can likely rattle off a handful of places where they can get it besides you or your business.

The economy in this country is humming along at a steady pace. So there are people out there spending money, and they are empowered more so now than ever. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Customers should reward businesses that do a good job. But you can’t control that. What you can control is how your business operates and approaches customer service.

We work in the retail design business. The displays, fixtures and interiors we design enhance the experience of shopping for your guests and potential customers. I see our work as a subset of, or secondary to, customer service. We can design things that make guests go “wow”, making it easy and enjoyable to buy things from you.

But nothing we can design will compensate for bad customer service.

If you want them to come to you to buy what you are selling, then you need to make customer service the priority in your business. It’s where the rubber meets the road (pun intended).

-Chris

Chris Weigand is the president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a retail design agency that services customers by providing world class retail research, display, fixture, space planning, and interior design services. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call them at (330) 858-8926 to learn more.

Retail Design: Behind The Scenes

The average consumer likely doesn’t think about it too much, but a lot goes into all the displays and fixtures we see at retail everyday. Today I would like to provide some “behind the scenes” real world insight into the effort that goes into designing for retail.

Where Retail Design Comes From

There are a variety of resources creating the designs that go into every retail space, including in-house designers, architects, consultants, freelance designers and manufacturers. Often times two or more of these resources will team together to provide the final retail design solutions for a brand or retailer. In many cases in-house design teams have shrunk, or need additional capacity, so they will work with outside creative resources, building a highly capable creative team to work on a specific project. The brand or retailer client may not even know this is the case because the team will work seamlessly behind the scenes. Some design providers have no problem letting clients know they are leveraging the best and the brightest professional creative talent for their projects. As a professional designers we adapt our approach specific to every situation and client to assure the end result is the best it can be, whether anyone knows we worked on a project or not.

You Always Pay For Design, Even If You Don’t Think You Do

Like they say, you get what you pay for. For most of my career design was “free”. Clients would pit several design providers, often manufacturers, against each other. Then they would select the design they liked and give it to the cheapest manufacturer. Fortunately as we emerge from the economic downturn, and everyone has slashed creative staffs, brands and retailers are realizing that design isn’t free anymore. Or at least good design isn’t free. Projects are more curated, and carry a lot of weight in the success or decline at retail. Good design takes specific skills, creativity and knowledge. Why leave your business to chance just to save a few dollars? Invest in good design and it will pay you back ten fold throughout the process. The decisions your design team makes early on in the process impacts every aspect of your retail business.

As such, good clients now understand the true value of a comprehensive design approach, and are willing to engage, and pay for, design separately from manufacturing. Sure house accounts typically have a certain amount of design services built into their budgets, and a prospective client may get a round of free design consultation, but no longer should they expect that to be the case, indefinitely. The retail business can no longer support that model. So you can either pay sooner for design or pay later to fix problems. We prefer you pay for design.

We’re Constantly Working

Designers never shut off. We’re constantly thinking, designing, researching…looking for inspiration….looking for improvement.  We work in fits and flashes. Creativity can’t just be turned on, but often times that’s what we have to do to meet a dizzying array of due dates. For every billable hour I would bet there is at least one hour spent building the creative foundation that is applied to any given project. There’s a good chance your next retail design solution was born whilst a designer was driving somewhere or taking a shower.

We Love Retail

Speaking for myself, I actually love shopping. I love being in stores. The people, the products, the displays, for me it is a one stop shop to see all kinds of materials, designs, ideas in practice. Plus, despite being an advocate for the environment, I actually love buying stuff (just in moderation). When I  go “retailing” for a project I keep thinking to myself “This is the best job in the world.” So while most of us aren’t technically merchants or marketers, we love and understand retail. As designers we understand all the things that influence success or failure at retail: products, environments, consumers, manufacturing, marketing, merchandising and business.  We take a holistic approach and know how to work directly with everyone throughout the process. Often times the designer may be the only advocate for an interested party that isn’t in the meeting room.

We’re Judging You

If you have a store then we’re judging you every time we visit. But it’s a constructive judging. Really.

We know all of your dirty little secrets that consumers may not consciously pick up on. We can see when something was not executed according to plan. On the other hand we also celebrate really awesome retail designs and problem solving. And we straighten things up because deep inside we want the store to look as great in person as it did in the renderings. We’re also looking at everything from the parking lot to the entrance, and beyond to each department and display. We evaluate how well your brand communicates through your store. We get ideas and inspiration.

We don’t mean to judge, but we have to in order to make sure what we’re designing for you or other merchants is the best, relevant and effective solution possible.

Covert Operations

Last but not least this is the funnest part of the retail design job: covert operations. If we’re designing a display or fixture for a retailer, then we need to get into the stores and measure the existing environment and often times take photographs. It’s easy if you’re working directly for the retailer. You just call and get permission from your contact. More often than not my client is not that retailer. I’ve designed displays for virtually every major retailer in North America over the last twenty years and I know for a fact none of them would know me, but they know my work.

The reality is we have to go under cover. With tight deadlines looming, and tight-lipped clients not wanting to let their customers know they’ve outsourced design, we need to put our James Bond hats on. Like an overseas CIA undercover agent we’re alone and no one knows who we are. There’s no one to call.

We make every effort to speak with on-site store representatives to let them know we need to measure a fixture or take a photo for reference. This is often met with middling results, and depends on who you talk to. We spend a lot of time explaining that we’re retail designers to glazed eyes.

Assuming I’m not escorted off the premises, I will discretely walk the store and measure any necessary fixtures that my display will need to attach to or work with. I’ll  take photographs to use as reference in designing the new display. The advent of good cameras on cell phones is a life saver. Clients love seeing displays in actual store environments so I’ll snap some photos for that purpose as well. I avoid photos with people in them.

If you are a merchant, please  let responsible retail designers discretely measure and photograph in your stores. We earn our living making your store environment the best it can be for your store and the brands you carry.

There you have it, some insight into our world. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Here are some examples of what we look for and output when we’re designing for retail. These are all older images so no retail environments were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Have any design “secrets” you’d like to share?

Have you ever been thrown out of a store? (I have by the way)

Share in the comments section below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC a full service retail design consultancy. He is a professional industrial designer who’s innovative, consumer focused retail designs can be seen in virtually every major retailer in North America. Whether you have one store or 5,000 stores Chris Weigand Design would love to work with you on your next retail design project. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or contact Chris at 330-858-8926.

3D Printing Part Deux

Here’s the follow-up to my 3D printing rant from last week (click here to see last week’s post).

This video demonstrates all the misleading hype about 3D printers the tech industry permeates into our social media.

A few things the 3D printing revolution will be good for:

Product Development – No surprise here since this is what it’s intended purpose is. The only reason the tech industry is putting out this propaganda is to sell 3D printers. Just like everyone needs a Thneed, we’re sold on the fact we’ll all need a 3D printer. The reality is lower cost printers are a boon to small businesses and institutions who are developing new products. The technology speeds the process to get unique products to market. But like any tool they are not and should not be the only means for making prototypes.

Replacement Parts – This is a primary (only?) area where 3D printers will revolutionize how we live. If you’re so inclined to have a printer at home you can have product companies send you a file to print your replacement part. This assumes that the company has the foresight to set up this service, and you know what how to install the part. The company can profit by selling you the print file (can be a one time use file). You win as a consumer because you have every part available to you. One major caveat: the products need to be designed for disassembly and repair. Can’t afford or don’t want a printer?….

Hardware Stores – Off the top of my head this is the main type of retailer that better get on the 3D printer bandwagon. They could, and should, still sell all the usual stuff but wouldn’t it be awesome if they had a 3D printer to print out that gear for my washing machine, or a replacement for the cracked housing on my stapler. It could be a whole new avenue for profit and service. We’ll be more than happy to design an in store printer environment by the way, if everyone promises to stop printing yoda heads to demonstrate the power of 3D printing.

User Interface Design – One of the only ways they’ll get 3D printers in the homes of the masses is if the user interface (U/I) is vastly improved. Currently most of our CAD software is designed by U/I techs and engineers with seemingly little regard for making things usable or intuitive. If we’re all going to design our own products from now on, and apparently we are, then we sure as heck better understand how to use the software and hardware. I’ve been using CAD for 20 years and still don’t fully understand how all the tools work, and I certainly couldn’t model something as complex as a woman’s shoe in CAD (I’d have to use a pen and paper like some sort of Neanderthal). The point is user interface design has a long way to go – putting more technology in the hands of the masses will necessitate better design.

Art & Biomimicry – This is kind of the catch-all but coupling 3D printing with 3D scanning technology opens whole new vistas for turning what man can conjure into new realities. Artists willing to take a plunge into the steep learning curve can churn out really awesome sculptures and artwork. Also we can learn from nature and create structures that aren’t easily resolved by current manufacturing methods. For example taking the strength of a skeleton and manufacturing it as a framework in a building or product. Yeah, 3D printers are really freaking good at doing that.

Space -Yes! This is where we need 3D printers. Load up our Mars spacecraft with at least three printers – one plastic, one metal and one with goo that makes human cells or tomatoes. Because space is one place where you need to build parts on site, on demand. I don’t live in space, so I’ll just goto Wal-Mart.

Some question marks I have:

On-Demand Manufacturing – I get it, you store bytes instead of products on shelves. But I need someone to start showing me parts and products that really can be used. Show me the true costs involved. I abhor tooling, but I also understand the advantages injection molding, metal fabrication and other manufacturing processes have based on quantities. On-demand manufacturing may not be right for your product or business.

Community – One of the selling points is that we’ll make all our stuff by 3D printing. We won’t need designers, factories, shipping companies…you name it, anymore. Um, if no one works in mass production anymore, what are they going to do? What happens to the communities that depend on manufacturing to be able to flourish? Okay, this is an extreme example but just because we can self provide doesn’t mean we should. On the surface every new technology looks like it will save us. What we need to do is focus on community instead of the latest social media darling.

Role Of Designers – What will making everyone a designer do for design? Why should I hire a designer when I can just do it myself? I not sure where things will land but I know design is tougher than most people think it is. Maybe the advent of manufacturing democracy will mean more people will need design services. Maybe 3D printers will force my hand and nix my value as a designer. I don’t know.

More Stuff – The advent of 3D printing for the masses doesn’t solve the social problems associated with consumerism. It says we still need stuff, we just don’t need the system to produce it for us. Well I think that’s a pretty narrow viewpoint of stuff and the system that produces stuff. We should value material and human craftsmanship. The ease of self manufacturing also makes it easier to make and consume products that may not be entirely thought out, in an unregulated environment. 3D printing for the masses, as it is sold in the articles and videos disconnects us from the earth and society as a whole.

With mass production if we needed 10,000 cups we had one machine making them. Now with the 3D printer revolution we need 10,000 cups we need 10,000 machines plugged into every house making them singularly.

I don’t see how that is progress.

 

What we need to do

Start valuing ecology, humanity and economy. Understand the impact design has on all three. Read ‘Cradle-to-Cradle‘ when you get a chance. It talks about fundamentally designing systems and products to be nurturing to what we really need as a planet.

3D printing challenges the status quo, so for that fact alone I applaud it. But we need to temper all of the media glamor with a dose of logic and understanding of the pros and cons of the tool.

And know that it’s you and I that will change the world. 3D printers will just help make our job a little easier.

 

Here’s a good Newsweek article on the topic.

Thoughts?

Where am I off base?

What do you agree with?

What can you expound upon?

Share in comments below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC – a full service retail design firm. Visit us at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information. And no we don’t have a 3D printer yet but would really like one someday.