3D Printing and the Future of Design

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h1I really like some of the 3D printing community projects that are in place right now ... it opens up a lot of possibilities for participants on many levels.

Stuart Constantine, Core77

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The hottest thing at this year's Fashion Week in New York wasn't a new designer line or a breakout celebrity endorsement. It was the 3D glasses that were printed out real-time and donned by models at Asher Levine's fashion show. That's right, printed. The glasses were produced using a creation from Makerbot – a 3D printer that can download designs and create 3D objects like fashion accessories, toys, and furniture (watch the video here).

Yes, it's an interesting time to be a designer – particularly if you're at the intersection of industrial design and the Internet, which is exactly where you'll find Stuart Constantine, a co-founder of Core77 and Coroflot. Core77 is a magazine and news site for design pros – Coroflot is the career resource (jobs, portfolios) for creative professionals. Stu (pictured) and Eric Ludlum created these sites back in 1995 and they're now the go-to sources for a global audience of creative professionals, especially interaction and industrial designers. If you want to know what was cool at Stockholm Design Week 2012, what's getting buzz at the London Design Museum, or how design pros are pushing the boundaries of what's possible with technology like 3D printers, this is your source.

Stu is also one of the influential voices in our SAY 100 design channel,curated by Tina Roth Eisenberg of Swissmiss. We caught up with him to find out what cool interaction and industrial design projects he's watching, how industrial design and interactive design work together, and his advice for aspiring designers.

What is good Web design to you? Good Web design results in sites/apps that are very clear in what they do. Functionality doesn't need to be spelled out - it should just work the way you think it should. Features can be somewhat hidden, as long as they become clear almost instantly through using the tool. Good design leads to a good relationship between the audience and the site/app. This can take a lot of different forms, looks, styles, etc. But in all cases you should actively like the service or system you're working with.

What are some industrial design projects you find interesting right now? I really like some of the 3D printing community projects that are in place right now. The Shapeways storefronts, and the Thingverse from Makerbot are good examples. It is a great combination of technology, community and design that opens up a lot of possibilities for participants on many levels. One example is a seller on the Shapeways site that allows you to purchase a 3D model of your avatar from the Minecraft online game. That mix of separate communities joined by a technology is really unique.

You've done industrial design and interactive design – how do those two disciplines feed each other in your work? Both of these share a number of common traits, as do every design discipline. Problem solving, working within constraints, market forces (typically) and technology are all factors. And in both cases you're trying to create some sort of relationship between your target audience/user and the thing you're working on. The relationships that emerge with interactive design projects can get quite complex, because often time there are two (or more) people connecting through a single service or project, while relationships between objects and people can often be quite intimate. But in both cases empathy for your audience is important.

You've built an amazing community on Core77 and Coroflot. What continues to surprise you about those communities? And how have they changed since 1995? What surprises me is that people still yearn for connection and community. I guess that should not be such a surprise! But really that is a key driver in our business - facilitating connections between people that otherwise might never meet. It seems that the more splintered we get in terms of communications and information sources, the more need there is for some sort of continuity. A lot of what we do and offer is essentially what we've been doing for a long time, and thankfully people are still responding to it! So while the details have evolved the core is still intact.

What have been some of the most popular posts on Core77 – and what do you think they say about what designers want or need? The longer articles that we post consistently do well. Those tend to be more thoughtful and in-depth pieces that generate commentary and wide spread interest. So people are hungry for more exploration of a topic than a typical blog post allows. That said, posts about cool Apple-related items are always popular, as well as things that have mainstream appeal. One of my favorites from last year was a post featuring a video on how pencils are made - totally cool, and something I did not know until I saw it.

What other design blogs or voices do you admire or follow and why? I love the writing and inquisitiveness of Maria Popova. Her ability to source interesting and relevant items is truly astounding. I'm a big fan of Clay Shirky as well.

What's your advice for aspiring designers today? Pretty simple - do lots of work. Just keep working. Keep an open mind and take every opportunity that comes your way.

Follow Core 77 and Stu on Twitter @core77 and @stuconstantine.

Designers, check out the Core77 Design Awards - the deadline for submission is April 10.

[Image credit: Makerbot]