Jamer hunt wrote in 2005 a manifesto for post industrial design suggesting that ‘the industrial mode of production is just a rotting old carcass, decomposing but still taking up space.’

In practice industrial design was traditionally geared towards serving mass manufacturing cycles, associated business requirements, tooling outlay and centralised distribution networks. Here we saw paradigms of taylorism and fordism where product design and manufacture was inextricably linked with capitalism.

Regarding capitalism, a number of social scientists suggest that the period since the mid-1970s represents a transition from one distinct phase of capitalism to another, new phase. This phase is referred to as ‘post-fordism’, ‘post-industrial’ ‘post-modern’ post-collective or the ‘fifth kondratiev’.

In whatever we choose to name this epoch, and I suggest it is wrong to think of it as a distinct phase but rather a shift, we observe a number of characteristics including a threat to the centrality of large industrial complexes, flexible specialisation, new merchantilism and global interdependence.

Increasingly then, we see that old design and manufacturing paradigms are less relevant. Thinking of trends in ‘product’ such as versioning, customisation and increasingly short obsolescence cycles it is worth noting that traditional values of product design and production are becoming outmoded. Some academics suggest that alongside a development or shift in the model of capitalism that we are entering a new era of production, a new paradigm, a new epoch and with this arises possibilities for post industrial design methodologies.

The possibilities for product design are evident, data and code are materials and tools for design, the old, mechanistic models – so relevant during the Industrial Revolution—are less relevant. The old ‘bits and atoms’ divide is less of a divide and more of an opportunity. Vertical hierarchies of production and distribution are undermined through the emergence of post industrial manufacturing systems and with this the possibilities for a new product design field emerge.

As Jamer indicates ‘These new processes of design are more biological than mechanical.  They are flexible, adaptable, sustainable, and self-organizing. The “design” will gain energy and vitality through this distribution and circulation, just as genes do. Code, too, has its own characteristics, traits, patterns, and needs. It has metabolism. It survives through modified loops of input, stimulation, feedback, circulation, and change. Sprawling networks of data that are ubiquitous, immediate, and infinite will amplify and distribute that code.  In this way, code becomes dynamic; it is alive to its environment. The old order of vertical integration and of centers and peripheries is giving way to flux and code, mutability and drift. Out with hard goods. In with soft wares.’

Importantly within this post industrial design mode dynamics of market research, design, manufacture, distribution, and ownership alter significantly.

‘ This model is closer to the open-source mode of software creation than to the romantic, genius-in-a-tower version… Postindustrial design is as different from the artisanal mode of production that it supplanted. No longer will companies rely upon imprecise statistical models and historical projections to determine the quantity and qualities of the things they make.’

So what are the implications for product design?

Open design – where the tools of design are digital the design object becomes digital (at least prior to production) and just as we have seen open source design in software we now see open design in product design.

‘Ronen Kadushin’s Open Design and FutureFactories’ Tuber and Tuber9 lights—operate on the premise that the next phase of design will be open and distributed.’

Adaptation, modification, hacking, and further evolution are possible, the designer may create a template or platform for design possibilities, but the final form can be dictated, in part at least by the consumer.

Product analytics – just as we’ve analysed and used web analytics for our own ends soon we will use product (physical) analytics too, both feeding back and influencing the design for the next version of the product, resulting in an evolutionary product where each version builds upon the use metrics of the user who owns it.

Democratisation – of the tools of design and production as well as distribution will also change the perceptions of what a designer is and how they work.

Interesting ways that this is happening can be seen through Be your own souvenir by BlablabLAB using openkinect to fabricate attendees as they posed and Shadowgram by David Stolarsky using open frameworks, laser cutting silhouettes of attendees and of course Future factories by Lionel Dean and co. Exciting future work in the shoe design field is due from Assa Ashuach .


One thought on “Post Industrial Design

  1. Pingback: Droog: Downloadable Design | Point of Use

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