Anticonventional Objects vs. Successful Products

By Norman Chan

A Venn digram to understand how made products fit into society.

Science fiction author (and Wired UK columnist) Bruce Sterling gave a talk at last weekend's Maker Faire Rome (Italy!) analyzing the place and purpose of objects that are produced in different maker cultures. Sterling's seven category of objects fit into a Venn Diagram based on designer Hugh Dubberly's graph of successful products, identified as those which are desirable, buildable, and profitable. Sterling takes that diagram and instead focuses on the six types of objects that lie outside of that ideal intersection, an attempt to understand the making of "unconventional objects." Things like open source hardware (desirable and buildable, not very profitable), high art (desirable and profitable, but not mass buildable), and prison contraband (buildable and profitable, but not desirable by society). It's an interesting way to think about why people, organizations, and businesses make the things they do, even if it's not economically sound. The diagram from Sterling's talk is below.

(Also interesting: Dubberly's analysis of how the products of Novell, Microsoft, and Apple fit into this model of product design.)