This Fall I’ll be stepping back to being a part-time professor with a year-long class at the School of Design at University of Illinois at Chicago called “Entrepreneurial Product Development.” Despite the academically stiff name, in my hands this class will be more than just “The Kickstarter class”—it will be about following the recent rise of independent designers that produce and sell their own work, the ethos that drives them, and the methods they use to make it happen. Below is the first post on the class Tumblr:
It’s an amazing time to be an independent product designer. A culmination of contemporary movements have given product designers the ability to bring their own ideas to market, allowing them to more directly control their work and reap direct benefits from the success—in the end giving them more autonomy in how they choose to work.
New media forms such as video, interactive websites, and GIFs have allowed designers to share ideas in more compelling ways—and more importantly—ways that can be shared easily. Blogs have allowed early product concepts to spread rapidly, giving broad exposure to powerful ideas and delivering niche ideas to the right audiences—giving the designer real world feedback and a indication of the scale of opportunity. Rapid prototyping has allowed designers to inexpensively prototype ideas and iterate quickly. A focus on small-scale & localized manufacturing has allowed smaller runs of objects to be produced affordably. A shift in the perspective of handcraft has given makers a new audience of people interested in handmade goods. Social media has allowed designers to promote their work in authentic ways and build “followers” that help spread the word and give feedback. Crowdfunding has yielded a new model for raising capital and generating an audience through storytelling—a designer’s most potent tool.
This course will explore this new world of opportunity, celebrating the ideal of authorship in design—whether it be manifested as a “side project” along with full time employment or as defining an alternative path for professional practice.
Even if you’re not a student, give the Tumblr a follow, and come along as we explore the world of indie product design.