Have you ever thought about designing your own furniture, but don't have the technical skills or means to turn an idea into a real life chair? Here's your chance to make it happen. SketchChair is an open source software program that will let users create and test a chair design, which would then be cut on plywood and sent to the user, who would assemble it, no tools required.
SketchChair is the work of Greg Saul and Tiago Rourke, industrial designers from New Zealand who form Diatom Studio, in collaboration with the JST ERATO Design UI Project in Tokyo. Saul and Rourke hope SketchChair will enable users to play a major role in the design process, and also share designs they have created and liked, which could be customized by other users.
To create the program, Saul and Rourke launched a Kickstarter campaign last month with a goal of $18,000; it raised $31,475. That money will go to developing the software, which will use a simple 2d drawing interface for creating a design and a physics engine to test its stability and comfort for differently-sized users. SketchChair will then generate cutting profiles, which can be sent to an online fabrication service (Diatom notes 100kGarages and Ponoko) to have plywood pieces cut and shipped. Once the user receives the parts, she can put them together and have a seat.
Tiago and Saul also suggest using SketchChair as an educational tool for children (I'd include design students as well), noting that the pieces can be cut and assembled in miniature.
There's a lot to love about this idea: it encourages people to think about and take part in the design of the products they use. It provides a valuable service for free (the designing, not the cutting of the wood or the shipping). Flatpack products are lighter to ship (and take up fewer resources), and are a lot easier to assemble than the average Ikea anything. I can't wait for Diatom to get SketchChair up and running, so I can get designing.