It just hits so many TreeHugger buttons: Design Democracy is about revitalization of manufacturing in the rust belt around Richard Florida's concept of expanding the creative class. It is about Mass Customization and applied here to furniture design, much like Unto this Last in the UK. Founders Bryce and Kerry Moore write: "A well-designed product that exploits new technology and requires only small production runs will be competitive with mass manufactured products.... Being close to production allows us greater quality control and as an added benefit, our products are more environmentally sound because they do not need to be transported halfway around the world."
They then set out a vision similar to that which we proposed at TreeHugger's In an Absolut World:
"We foresee a time in our industry, where instead of going to IKEA buy your furniture, you’ll visit a local manufacturing center. This manufacturing center will have license to produce many designs, IKEA’s included, but will make them for you right there. This accomplishes several manufacturing sustainability goals: it brings the production of the product closet to the consumer, combines manufacturer’s budget dollars which in turn increases investment in the local job economy, and reduces waste by producing only what there is a demand for. "
To promote the idea, they have built a website where designers and artists can submit ideas for designs that can be built using the mass-customization processes, by March 21. Anyone can submit a design; a panel of "industry professionals will review all entries and decide upon designs to be produced and debuted at the 2008 ICFF. In addition to being viewed on the website each entry will be visually represented at the 2008 ICFF Context Furniture booth in New York City. A 'people's choice' design will also be produced as ratings from the website and on-site ICFF voting are tallied."
The age of downloadable designs and hyperlocal manufacturing is closer than we think. ::Design Democracy
See also ::In an Absolut World to see the TreeHugger take on this.