Maker Culture – Time to Refresh Your Design Mojo

Maker Culture – Time to Refresh Your Design Mojo

By Janet H. Thomas, RID

The maker culture ( is a technology based extension of more traditional activities such as metalworking, wood working and traditional crafts and arts. Typical technology interests enjoyed by the maker culture include electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools.

Maker culture builds on constructivism, learning by doing similar to a craftsman training an apprentice. Within the maker movement are values that any business can apply.

  • Open source – open sharing to fuel continual progress.
  • Embracing imperfection – failure is a good. Encourage freedom to pursue what ifs and allowing for continuous improvement and even creating new opportunities.
  • Taking risks – create a thriving environment that spins around open honest exchange of ideas that ends in great achievements.

This movement is changing the face of how AEC firms go about problem solving. The Boston Society of Architects have launched Make Tank! ( ) to explore making as another methodology for architectural investigation through presentations, discussions and training sessions.

Sasaki Associates has a dedicated maker space ( ) combining a physical shop with digital design and 3-D printers. Prototyping ranges from hand built modeling, through tinkering to full scale modeling to computer modeling and 3-D printed models. Every associate experiences their Maker Program where they build a physical object by hand. The office includes a maker shop, and the success of this program is leading to changes to allow maker collaboration throughout the office.

Gensler ( emphasizes using technology to speed idea generation, then testing via hands on modeling.

NBBJ ( has a Design Computation Group that sponsors hackathons quarterly. Each design studio includes maker space consisting of a woodshop, 3D printers and laser cutters. As with Sasaki all of the office is a large incubator for idea generation and collaboration.

By combining new technology driven processes with physical modeling this new hybrid opens a gateway to design solutions that are fresh and stimulating, while providing possibilities to discover unrealized potential even in the failures.

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