TreeHugger loves the idea of mass customization and downloadable designs, but, until there's a manufacturer with a computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine in every town, it won't quite be ready for prime time. Until then, a Norwegian product development company called MELD have come up with what they think is the answer: platform design.
Here's their thinking: "the world is not ready for mass customization on a grand scale. Presented with the choice of 'anything', most people will be overwhelmed and simple draw a blank. To both educate and react to this reality, platform design gives a basic starting point, a first step in moving to a mass customized world."
Three steps to mass customization
To help this process along, MELD has created a three-step process, using what they call "platform design."
1. Design a product for customization by both designers and users, allowing for maximum flexibility. The system must include manufacturing and logistics specifications, addressing sustainability and performance specifications.
2. Take this design/system and give it to other creatives to play and build with. Allow them to push the boundaries of the system and express themselves to their fullest. We believe this in turn will inspire the general population to use the system for their own visions.
3. Finally and most importantly; allow the final customization (regardless of designer) to be done by the buyer of the product. Allow them to decide the final expression or function of the product.
Essentially, the idea is that you get IKEA-esque flatpacking and efficiency coupled with the ability to tweak the designs to better match your aesthetic and style. Smart. See examples of what they're talking about at ::Platform Design, and read the manifesto at ::MELD via ::Core77
See also: ::This is Your Brain on Mass Customization, ::Green Materials + Mass Customization = Peter Pless's Comp Lounge, ::Made to Order Muesli, Design Democracy Competition: Mass Customization Gets Real and ::In An Absolut World Everything is Downloadable