Click into creative mode
Call it a sign of the times: technology is not only allowing designers to quickly produce items as needed, it's also enabling more consumer participation in the creative process.
At Finland-based firm Freedom of Creation (FOC), founder Janne Kyttanen builds on 3-D printing techniques used at the start of the design process and invites browsers to order what they want via a virtual store, before making the products.
For Kyttanen, the process is as much about the rejection of traditional production methods as enabling consumer power. It also cuts down on unwanted stock, assembly and transport.
A model from FOC's current collection is the Gaudi Chair made of carbon fibre and glass-filled nylon.
Dutch designer Bram Geenen sent his computer-aided blueprint to FOC, which then turned the image into furniture. The spidery-looking work, inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi's inverted arcs, has a strength that isn't obvious until you sit in it.
Another company encouraging collaborative creativity is Ponoko, which bills itself as an online marketplace for people who want to click their way towards personalised goods.
Customers use software available on the site to design what they want, transfer the plan to templates, select colours and material, click to get a price, and then place an order and approve payment.
Once this has been done the pieces are shipped to the customer for assembly. The idea is that having done it once, consumers will be braver with their next attempt and choose more adventurous colours and materials.
Designers can also make and sell their products through Ponoko, but this requires agreement on copyright and pricing before the items are included in the online showroom. Among its online designers is Jee Yeon Bundy, who has produced unusual cork coasters.
Dutch conceptual design company Droog takes a different approach with its Do Hit Chair. Encouraging consumers not so much to tweak as to thump the product, it provides buyers with a hammer to pummel the chair into uniquely shaped seating. At the less aggressive end of the spectrum is Parisian design duo Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec's collaboration with textile manufacturer Kvadrat, dubbed Clouds.
Using triangular fabric tiles with tabs that can be joined by rubber bands, you can make hanging dividers, wall hangings or sculpture.