The Shift to Post-Purchase Manufacture

Published by James Arthur on 21 September 2015

The fundamental thing about digital fabrication is the shift to post purchase manufacture. The moment when a product is fabricated is a moment of crystallisation. An abstract design becomes a concrete product. A world of possibilities is reduced – irreversibly – to a single form.

Delaying that moment of execution until after purchase allows the world of possibilities to overlap with information about the purchaser and their context. The reduction of a product to its concrete form can be informed by this information: be it ergonomic, environmental, personal, social.

Companies who design products that adapt to contextual information will have a competitive advantage. Phones that just fit your hand. Furniture that just fits your space. Gadgets that just fit your lifestyle.

To do so, practically, they need to master their designs as parameterised applications: to publish the underlying logic of their models, not just static vector exports. At this point, the consumer experience can shift from radio buttons to sliders, as we can see in the first generation interfaces of Digital Forming and Matter Machine.

The next generation – the point where a wider consumer market is unlocked – is the implicit application of contextual data. Data generated by an app on your mobile is fed into the design-as-application and the implicitly personalised form emerges.