Could Design Leadership Be Personal? Forecasting New Forms of ‘‘Indie Capitalism’’

The democratization of design technologies, the increasing personalization of production, and the spread of new distribution models are interconnected phenomena that have produced a new era of rapid change in the creation, materialization, and accessibility of many goods and services. One observes the following features in the production systems of the main advanced economies:

  • Industry itself is changing. Productive interdependence and outsourcing have become the norm in contemporary industry. The miniaturization and digitization of production technologies enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (previously extraneous or peripheral) to overcome their limitations by entering global circuits consisting of peer-to-peer networks of small and local producers. This creates an extraordinary opportunity for crafts microenterprises to become leaders. 
  • Places of production are changing. Opportunities to experiment in making, hacking, and do it yourself (DIY), aided by ‘‘fab labs,’’ modify the conception of the traditional sites of production and recast the notions of studio, workshop, laboratory, gallery, and atelier into new settings for the integrated design, production, and distribution of products.
  • The product ⁄ service is changing. The relationship between design and artifact production is more complicated because everyday human experience is being populated by interactive and complex objects of a material ⁄ nonmaterial nature and in continuous and rapid evolution (mix of hardware and software via connection with services).
  • The market is changing. Although the market is increasingly viewed as a single large and homogeneous social institute, it is more apposite to speak of markets in light of the renewed and complex connotations that this word may assume; we refer in particular to long-tail markets (Anderson, 2006).

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