Nico Abbruzzese
Mar 12, 2014

The maker revolution: A movement fueled by the wisdom of crowds

Dispatch from SXSW: Probing the impacts of the 'maker' revolution on brands, manufacturing and the foundations of consumerism itself.

Nico Abbruzzese
Nico Abbruzzese

At South by Southwest (SXSW) you can always count on a handful of hot topics to emerge in the ocean of content that makes this conference unique. Those topics add colour to thoughtful conversations among digital natives, many of whom geek out for several days to learn and experience a slice of the future here in Austin, Texas.

Mark Hatch, CEO of Techshop, a leading advocate of the 'maker' revolution, shared multiple anecdotes and case studies spurred out of Techshop on stage. Techshop is essentially a creative community that provides access to tools, software and spaces based around different states in the US. People with no prior experience with engineering, design or product development have created wildly successful businesses.

More from SXSW 2014

These new businesses are created from prototype to off-the-shelf consumer products in faster cycles, supported by a receptive market that’s willing to invest in a proof of concept. This is a movement that’s only made possible through an engaged, networked community of early adopters and crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Successful products that have resulted from this movement include the minimalist Lumio lamp, the foldable Kayak and the portable incubator for babies, Embrace.

Elevating this topic, the panel—Future or Making—led by Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo and Joie Ito from MIT Media Lab, explored how technology is enabling the democratisation of maker tools. 

Brown talked about a future where manufacturing brands will still have a role in producing the building blocks, but consumers will decide what to customise, assisted by tools that are more intelligent and intuitive. Brown anticipates the rise of a trend where more people will seek to purchase objects imbued with deeper meaning as a way of life, eventually leading to the fall of consumerism. Ito ended by forecasting the significance of bioengineering as the next frontier of making; he shared a future where we’ll be able to synthesise our biology.


Are we looking into a future where we’ll be programming the nutrient levels of our 3D-printed dinner and building our furniture from bags of recycled plastic assisted by smart tools?

The definition of a maker has expanded. People who might once have been defined as cottage craftsmen are now a sophisticated network of technology tinkerers with limitless potential coming from different walks of life. The maker revolution is redefining traditional manufacturing cycles, riding on the wave of increasingly accessible and powerful tools for rapid prototyping. Experimenting with rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printers and programmable electronic components (such as Arduino) should be part of every agency’s toolkit to help creatives and clients lean into the future.

Nico Abbruzzese is worldwide director of creative technology with Metalworks by Maxus


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