Why (the idea of) freedom of design matters?

People who don’t know too much think that with 3D printing you can create almost anything, and that there is complete freedom of design for practitioners. People who know too much tell us this is not true. Which point is more valuable?

I studied for my master’s thesis ~1990s. My major was computer science. Only at the end of the studies it became possible and economically feasible to have an own computer at home! At that time, nobody (except some visionary gurus) really believed that computers would one day be everywhere in our lives. But we had the emerging idea that something like that might happen.

In my first job as designer we were developing the first Nokia communicator with the idea that Internet would be in everybody’s pocket. Hah! We hardly had functional Internet on the planet. The idea of everybody having a mobile phone was crazy. Not to mention the possibility of having Internet in the mobile phone, available for online surfing everywhere. But we had the vision driving the development. Quite soon we sent the first ever email from a mobile phone.

Now and then we see phenoma that inspire global thinking in masses. 3D printing is such thinking platform! The sole idea of 3D printing may be more valuable than the technological reality today. It empowers millions of people to safely envision about the biggest opportunity of new level of manufacturing and products. To think about what might be possible, even when you don’t know enough about the technology. Dreaming is the most powerful innovation tool.

Thinking platforms are needed to collaboratively understand or dream of what might be possible, and then go for it. It is crucial to be able to safely and creatively produce knowledge about the possible future. It is motivating for all disciplines to set goals that seem to be impossible to reach even with sufficient resourcing. With great goals humans can achieve the impossible.

Disruptions have tendency to come unnoticed and quietly. And 3D printing is next on the line for global disruption. It generates a number of related opportunity avenues, such as materials innovation, logistics, business models and design methods.

It really doesn’t really matter if freedom of design is entirely true today. It matters that we have the inspiring possibility to think about the new design space and to develop wild ideas. Most of the dreams will realize at some point of the time.

Pekka Ketola Jan. 22nd, 2020