Studies confirm that tactile input had a positive effect on the evaluation of products, especially for products high in quality. In the last two years, we’ve seen a cultural shift towards “makers” – people who are handcrafting goods — ranging from shirts to dice to food — with high quality materials. The maker movement has four main philosophies:
- If it can be imagined, it can be made.
- A most effective step in refining/developing a thing is collaborating with others on it.
- Begin with the end in mind.
- Making things always combines form with function; the art of making should be appreciated and celebrated.
The first, “if it can be imagined, it can be made,” has its roots in the information age. We have more information – archived and experience from others — available to us, namely, open sourcing. Open source generally refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design. You can find the plans and blueprints for nearly anything online, and more and more people are making them readily available to others for their own purposes. The second, collaboration, is also helped by open source materials.
“Beginning with the end in mind” means to use the best materials and close attention to detail to create a one of a kind product or experience. Kickstarter is a website where people cannot invest in the projects to make money, but in exchange for a tangible reward or one-of-a-kind experience, like a personal note of thanks, custom T-shirts, dinner with an author, or initial production run of a new product. The people on Kickstarter are creating everything from new product lines to limited edition toys, all with the goal of giving the world something new. Esty is another website where consumers can find one of a kind goods. Vendors set up shops selling handmade products, vintage items, and craft supplies. Chad Dickerson of Esty describes the interaction as having real physical meaning: “At the end of every transaction, you get something real from a real person.” These websites have exploded in size in the last two years as more consumers want unique goods and experiences.
Celebrating and appreciating the art of making is becoming more widespread, from detailed product notes to weekend-long art and music festivals. No festival takes this appreciation to the extreme like Burning Man, which celebrates radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self–reliance, radical self–expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leave no trace, participation, and immediacy. Participants travel thousands of miles to the desert to construct a temporary city of 70,000 people. Their cars, camps, and bodies become functional pieces of art. People move and share freely and highly value handmade, personal items.
Even children are getting in on the maker movement — or perhaps they were there first. The International Printing Museum hosts Merit Badge Days for local Boy Scout Troops. The scouts rotate between 10 stations covering every aspect of the printing and paper industries, from offset lithography and screen printing to digital design and how the paper industry manages and uses their forests. Each boy has a chance to screen print their own shirt, run an offset press, grind pulp in a Hollander beater, make their own sheet of paper and letterpress print a card on an antique press. The day is filled with lots of hands-on activities and detailed presentations, given by industry experts and educators. Go here to see a gallery from the most recent merit badge day.
With publications liked Wired and events like Maker Faire becoming more mainstream, we can expect the average consumer to desire items that are closer to a handmade product, even when that isn’t feasible. One thing you can do to add a “maker” feeling to your business (as corporate as it may be), is to pay attention to the details — your business cards, the letters you send, the notes you give customers. People will hold onto beautiful things, and if that is something with your name on it, imagine the impact that will have on the impression you make.
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