You know it, I know it, everybody knows it: The democratization of technology is changing everything from the way we design to how we design it. The self-manufacturing mindset is driving innovation while redefining DIY in ways we’ve never seen before. It seems as though the Maker subculture is growing exponentially and everybody is calling themselves a designer now…but are they really a ‘Designer’? In this forum from AU2012 we meet some Makers who among other things, are turning product sketches with zero knowledge of design into full-scale companies within months.

AU2012 Innovation Forum | Everyone is a Designer

In this Autodesk University 2012 Innovation Forum, guests including Eric Wilhelm (founder of Instructables), David Lang (co-founder of OpenROV), Schuyler St. Leger (Kid Maker), Ben Kaufmann (CEO of Quirky), and others discuss where this rise is coming from and how despite what professionally-trained designers may have learned, how the profession is being liberated to consumers with ease-of-access design and manufacturing allowing a ‘nobody’ to create a product and have a company months later:

Eric Wilhelm, Founder, Instructables

“The barriers to making things and to raising money have been erased. With CAD tools that are
just good enough, and with tools that can raise just the right amount of money, and even take
pre-orders – and then finally rapid prototyping tools like 3D printers and laser cutters – you
can build a prototype that you can take into real life and you can test. And you can figure out
whether your design is also good enough.”

“I think that most of you recognize is the real value is in execution. Ideas are cheap and plentiful.
And so value is built by that iterating, that testing, and doing it over and over to figure out
whether your design actually works.”

“If the cost of prototyping, to iterating, and to testing approaches zero, what does that mean?
Does that mean we can forge a deeper relationship with the things around us because we know
how they are made? And because we know how to make them ourselves?”

Schuyler St. Leger, (Professional) Kid Maker

“Do it with others, you don’t just do it by yourself you go find a community and they do it with

“Design it yourself, make it yourself. I like to say, do it with others. Find a community to help

“What was the first book you read over a thousand pages? Most kids it would be Harry Potter.
For me it was the Grainger catalog.”

Ben Kaufman, CEO of

“It took a year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building. But it took almost 3 years to build
this potato peeler. (OXO Good Grips Peeler)”

“Invention has been replaced with innovation.”

“The brightest minds in the world are no longer working on fighter planes, but virtual world
games where you can throw birds around.”

“Most companies spend millions of dollars to create a new product. At Quirky we spend a few
thousand dollars. It all happens on where people share their ideas and stories.”

“Imagine a world 100 years from now. You’ve seen amazing tools. Imagine the world you’ll be
living in. Let’s go back a 100 years to Ford’s cars, they were black and got 17 miles to the gallon.
100 years later the best-selling car in America was a Ford, it was black and got 16 miles to the

“We are all designers, we always have been, it’s all about pushing down those barriers.”


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.