Going back to the introduction of desktop publishing tools that allowed everyday Joes and Josephines to “design” and print documents with relative ease, the perceived value of professional design services has continued to decline as skills and processes that previously required years of training continue to be simplified and automated for nonprofessional users.

Perhaps no single piece of hardware has had as much of an impact as the smartphone, which opened up the opportunity for apps and algorithms to make editing photos, videos, documents and even some 3D files a breeze anywhere in the world. As a result, this has affected how some people perceive paying for professional services.

But with the introduction of more advanced consumer 3D printers (thanks to expiring patents) and other small-scale production tools including the recent FormBox Kickstarter hit, how might the perceived value of professional product design services be affected? Of course, the means of production are only as valuable as the design of an object itself – but as 3D design software continues to get smarter, the barrier of entry will continue to decline for non-technical projects.

Ultimately, if Mayku – the creators of the FormBox – continue on their path to developing other small scale desktop production machines (an injection molder, a rotational molder and a CNC mill), what sort of a message will this send about the value of professional design and manufacturing services?

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Naturally, a heated discussion on the topic between industry professionals has been brewing up over on our original FormBox post from last week.

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Says Lee Lloyd:

“On the one hand, I am loving seeing all the new, cool, friendly, small scale production tools coming out. On the other hand, as someone who has a lot of photographer friends who curse what smartphones and Instagram have done to their industry, I am less than excited about the long-term results of “democratizing” these tools. Millions of Etsy shops, with no one actually able to make a decent living. There is something to be said for a craft or art requiring a little dedication and effort.”

What do you think?

Will the introduction of these tools hurt or further enable design professionals? How might it affect the perceived value of professional design?

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