The Personal Design Manifesto

Excerpted from Jan Borchers, René Bohne:

“Personal Design, not Digital Fabrication, is the 3rd Digital Revolution. Affordable personal digital fabrication technologies only enable a third digital revolution of Personal Design whose potential impact on society reaches far beyond the previous PC and internet revolutions.

“Personal Design Demands New UIs. To move from mere personal fabrication technology to truly personal design as a mass phenomenon requires HCI to radically re-think current interfaces between the user and these tools, to make them accessible to a general audience.

“Personal Design Tools Require Encoding Domain-Specific Knowledge. To let non-professionals design physical objects, tools will need to provide some level of guidance through constraints, patterns, or other forms of domain-specific design knowledge, whether built into the tool or mediated from other users via collaboration, crowdsourcing, etc. This requires understanding the differences in conceptual models between amateurs and professionals, and modeling this knowledge in digital form (similar to Desktop Publishing tools encoding rules of typography). At the same time, some traditional professional knowledge needs to be adapted to the new technical possibilities of modern personal digital fabrication tools.

“Personal Design Offers a Continuum of Options. Today, personal fabrication users owners mostly download existing models to manufacture them at home, without changing the designs themselves (think Thingiverse). At the other end of the spectrum is the designer or artist that creates and prints a digital model from scratch (think SolidWorks). In between are parameterized models that allow small changes (think OpenSCAD), or constraint-based design tools that enforce some domain-specific rules while providing more freedom to the designer at home (think SketchChair).

“Personal Design and Personal Fabrication Are Orthogonal. Future users may choose to design their own products as digital models, or choose an existing design (or anything in between, see 4.). They may also choose to manufacture these at home (think MakerBot), or outsource production to an external entity (think Shapeways).

Open-Source Hardware Supports Personal Design. The opportunities for rapid social collaboration on new and existing physical designs that social media provide are tantalizing, but may only unfold their true potential if the underlying design is made available in an open-source format.”

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