The risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things

Get excited and <strike>make</strike>do things

I once worked in a Parisian office where the walls were emblazoned with encouraging slogans in English, “share ideas!” “create!” “go!” But my favourite was always the half metre-high vinyl entreaty to:

“do it simple!”

In my more cynical moments I would claim this word art spoke volumes about the culture of multi-national business, more I think than its writer knew or intended. But this is not one of those moments, and in any case who am I to criticise people who spend their working lives operating in a second language while I, through accident of birth, get to open my mouth without a moment’s thought?

No, the mangled motto always reminded that while English has two verbs – “to do” and “to make” – French has only one – “faire”.

This is important because something’s been troubling me about this whole thing for making things. What exactly are the relationships inside that trinity of Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things”?

In my long-drawn-out drift from product manager to service designer, I’ve come to subscribe to the tenets of Steve Vargo and Robert Lusch’s Service Dominant Logic:

“that all firms are service firms; all markets are centered on the exchange of service, and all economies and societies are service based.”

But if I Don’t Believe In Products, why my excitement about making, about the prospect of artisan manufacturing, print-on-demand, Arduinos and laser cutters and 3d printers?

Makey Makey carrot keyboard

What would it mean for a service designer to live in the UK’s Maker Belt?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have three avenues that might be worth exploring further.

1. That makers are motivated by the process, not the product.

David Gauntlett’s ‘Making is Connecting‘ is good on this front:

Making is connecting because acts of creativity usually involve, at some point, a social dimension and connect us with other people; And making is connecting because through making things and sharing them in the world, we increase our engagement and connection with our social and physical environments.

Of course the thing matters, but only because it is filled with meaning by the people who make and use it. Its intangible value is far greater than the sum of its atoms.

2. That the products of making are frequently service avatars.

As Mike Kuniavsky says:

We are entering a new phase of the internet, one in which connected devices will be the new end points for services. This represents a seismic shift, one where the service is represented as a dedicated hardware device.

Berg’s Little Printer or the Good Night Lamp certainly fall into this category – lovely things that only come to life thanks to the services people make for them.

3. That paradoxically, the maker movement sits on top of a massive stack of enabling services.

  • Oomlaut is a service importing components and parcelling them up into starter kits for hardware hackers.
  • Folksy is a service enabling modern British crafters to network, communicate and sell their stuff.
  • Kickstarter is a service helping makers connect with and gain commitments from funders.
  • Shapeways is just one example of companies gearing up to offer 3d printing as a service.

So for me, the exciting stuff about the making movement is not the output, it’s the activity – the service ecosystem burgeoning around people’s desire and new-found ability to be makers.

Time to get excited and make do things.

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