Makers: From DIY to Major Industry Influencers

Makers: From DIY to Major Industry Influencers

By: Whitney Jencks

From handmade products on Etsy to prototypes at fast-growing corporations, hackers, tinkerers, enthusiasts, self-learners and entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of individual action to bring ideas to reality. The Maker Movement, propelled by the spirit of “hands-on” creation and the belief that no idea is too big, champions the idea that you don’t have to be a technology guru or coding genius in order to create something meaningful—you just need an idea and the passion to see that idea come to fruition.

Our team recently attended a Maker Movement presentation hosted by PSFK and PCH Access where some of today’s premiere Makers shared their stories. For many, like Billie Whitehouse, founder of socially-driven wearable technology company WE:EX, their involvement in the Maker Movement stemmed from acknowledging a problem and thinking creatively about ways to solve it themselves. WE:EX recently released Navigate, a coat that combines mobile map technology and fashion by tapping the wearer on the shoulder when it is time to turn. Other Makers are creating tools like the Lix pen, which allows anyone to become a 3D artist, and Rendor, which gives anyone with a smartphone the ability to scan, modify, and 3D-print objects quickly.

Makers are also forming influential communities where people with big ideas can learn, create and collaborate together to enact change. Maker Faires are becoming increasingly popular as places for Makers to share their products and ideas. Other creative communities, like TechShop, provide members with the space, materials and professional equipment needed to build and test prototypes.

As the Maker Movement continues to grow, we’re finding that more and more of our clients are adopting Maker trends. OnBeep, whose CEO and Cofounder Jesse Robbins spoke on a panel at the Maker Movement event, has assembled a team of Makers with backgrounds in design and engineering to create the company’s debut product, Onyx—a wearable communication device that works to simplify group collaboration with the touch of a button. What began as an idea crafted on a kitchen table is now being brought to mass production, thanks in part to Maker culture.

To learn how Maker culture is influencing some of our other clients, we sat down with Alan Cooper, a VP in our San Francisco office who oversees several of LaunchSquad’s hardware and design accounts, to find out how the Maker Movement is impacting lifestyle and technology industries.

When did you first hear about the Maker Movement? What about it piqued your interest?

I probably first discovered it two years ago at SXSW, and I’ve been watching it grow ever since. The idea of individuals affecting change—seeing products through from prototyping to production and distribution—it’s transformative.

PSFK and PCH’s Maker Presentation identified a few trends in the Maker Movement, such as democratized creation, accessible design tools and collaboration hubs. How have these trends affected mainstream industries?

For many of our lifestyle and tech clients, collaborative design is huge. Thanks to social media and other direct feedback channels, you have a two-way conversation between brands and consumers that wasn’t happening before. Good companies acknowledge that listening to what their customers need will only lead to more successful products, and truly revolutionary projects like Google’s ARA phone start to pop up in direct response to consumer feedback.

Another big trend with all our consumer electronics clients is the ability to design and iterate quickly. We’re seeing that across the board, and it’s potentially the most transformative trend shaping not only the Maker Movement but physical and industrial design in general. 3D printing and the democratization of tools like it are really changing the face of product development.

It seems like the transition from casual/small-scale Maker to entrepreneur can be a tricky one. From a PR perspective, what do you recommend for Makers out there who are making that transition?

A big challenge for indie developers is knowing the trademark system. More and more we’re seeing Makers put a good idea out there for crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, and a big company will appropriate the idea and produce it before the original team has time to catch up. It’s an unfortunate reality that Makers need to be thinking about strategically.

How do you see crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo contributing to the Maker Movement?

Crowdfunding is a huge part of the Maker Movement and a great way for Makers to get early adopters on board. It’s an exciting time right now, because a lot of the big crowdfunding success stories from 1-2 years ago are really starting to mature and reach new levels of growth. This first wave of businesses has gone from small teams of Makers and designers to growing companies that are making names for themselves in their respective markets. This time is typically when working with a PR firm is really beneficial, because marketing a tangible product creates much stronger campaigns with results that can transform a company’s trajectory.

Do you know of any marketing resources for Makers just starting out?

In terms of hard and actionable marketing advice, Hubspot’s blog is really fantastic. I recommend it all the time.

Interested in learning more about the Maker Movement? Find a Maker Faire near you, and check out these other resources: Inventables, Core77 and http://boingboing.net/

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