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MakerBot have announced that their Botcave™ Retail Store in Brooklyn will open on November 26th. This is a physical retail space that will retail MakerBots and Arduinos as well as kits from AdafruitEvil Mad ScienceJimmie RodgersSparkfun and Liquidware.

This reflects increasingly obvious emergence of retail and commercially focused models growing around open source, crowd-sourcing, social product design and citizen led approaches. [Perhaps better understood as citizen/retail/production models.] Examples include Ponoko, Shapeways, Nervous Systems and perhaps most obviously DOIY and Quirky.com.

Here innovation is observed in the research, design, supply chain, production and distribution mechanisms employed. Quirky, for example, employs crowd sourced (social) product design, research and development. This is complemented by a pull production system, requiring a predetermined level of sales before products are actually produced. This low risk (agile, pull) approach is an interesting development for production and retail of consumer goods. (not that I am saying it is new, just that the technical capabilities (PIMS/Digital) are converging to make this a relevant and possible approach.)

My research has been looking at models such as these for some time and in doing so I have found many failures and obviously sub-standard models. While it is early for such models it is evident that Quirky (for one) is something to watch out for. For the models that didn’t survive or are destined for the retail administration/bankruptcy graveyard I suggest that their primary short comings are related to the client/citizen side interaction, how the citizen/consumer interacts with the model, the effort required, barriers to participation, incentive to participate and a simple lack of consumer awareness.

My forth-coming paper* with Dr. Leon Cruickshank begins to address the client/citizen side of such models through consideration of the role of design as applied to such models. We suggest that through appropriate service design, design of (citizen) processes, provision of toolkits, design or supply of proto-designs** these citizen/retail/production model will be substantially enhanced. (Throw IoT into this mix and we have a perfect storm.)

*SVID December 2010
**Related to the known concepts of unfinished, modular and under-design.

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