Consumer-Led Product Design

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Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman"

"In the traditional manufacturing product design process, manufacturers develop a prototype based on research data about consumer preferences, test the prototype with customers, find flaws, and then continue to develop and fix the product. Traditional product development is a cumbersome, iterative back-and-forth between manufacturers and consumers as consumers know what they want, but their task of defining and articulating it to the manufacturer involves many steps and middlemen.


for over a hundred years, manufacturers have harvested user-developed innovations (“home-builts”) by converting them into a more robust and reliable form when preparing them for sale on the commercial market. Personal fabrication technologies will allow companies and consumers to take “home builts” to a new, and more sophisticated level.


we will witness a growing amount of consumer-led product development and modification across a wide range of industries that manufacture physical objects, similar to the already mainstream open source software model. Already across diverse industries such as printed circuit CAD software, surgical equipment, sporting equipment and pipe hanger hardware, up to a third of product users reported designing, modifying and developing their products themselves to suit their needs.


A major research study at 3M Corporation indicates that consumer-designed product improvements were more novel than the incremental product improvements dreamed up by in-house design teams and market researchers." (

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