Moving from the bespoke to mass-designed commodities, there is an historical before and after timeline to the way products have been personalized. The first centers all of the emphasis and talent on the maker; the second, all the power in the hands of the consumer, to change an item once it’s been manufactured. This evolution in emphasis and engagement encompasses the first two waves of customization.
The newest and third wave suggests a different model, a middle way. What if products were conceived to accommodate change during the design process, in a relationship between the customer and producer? Coalesse uses this approach to bring together the modern consumer demand for personalization with a traditionally disciplined design process. It merges the real-time immediacy of digital technology with the crafted knowledge of human expertise. It means that existing forms can be repeatedly customized to empower originality and differentiation, while still saving the client valuable time and cost.
This is the co-created artifact that is made with us. By adding unique design choices to available products on order, the customer participates in the making.
Design as a discipline has inherent flexibility to adjust almost any form, using the basic tools of color & pattern, materials & features, size & shape. Paint the same chair several different shades and it will communicate a new personality each time. One sofa becomes many when upholstered in various fabrics; a choice of material for a tabletop changes the entire table. Designers and manufacturers alike have always used these categories of primary tools to create custom effects.
Through these categories, Coalesse can activate the new customization with existing product platforms that anticipate, and accommodate, individualized design changes. Every item is built on the same frame, yet the outcomes are very personal and much more crafted in feeling than the stock model. And now, new digital tools can empower this personal authorship over many applied design choices, to an extent that has permanently collapsed the space between the producer and the consumer, and what can be co-created.
This engagement in the creation of a product is the future of participation: enabling customers to apply more of their own design and make their mark more meaningful.
More than ever, you can derive your product on the foundation of ours.
One critical place to look for this change is curated content enabled by technology. Digital engagement has altered what consumers everywhere expect for creative choices and convenience as part of our cultural experience. Now, the expectation of both quality and personalized experience will draw us to one product over another and truly direct choice.
Much can be adapted from the world of apps—how we already use technology to find someone’s home for a vacation stay, the best restaurant with an open reservation, a car to pick us up, the perfect music mix or an inspirational scrapbook on any topic. We follow intuitive clicks on a screen to design clothing, cars, bikes and social experiences with ease. Everything seems possible now, with more tailored options and involvement than ever before.
In this spirit, Coalesse has studied consumers’ digital habits in order to facilitate higher levels of adaptation in its product design process—from inquiry to sampling to ordering to production.
To become even more responsive, Coalesse is developing its own digital tools that put designers at the helm earlier in a collaborative process. If anything is possible, now is the time where more of anything is probable in the making of a design.
Consider the new customizer for our LessThanFive series. This web tool allows anyone to participate at a deeper level of personalized design by configuring literally any color or color combination, and importing any pattern, onto the carbon-fiber frame of the LessThanFive chair. New capabilities are planned to make truly bespoke statements with more choices of color, pattern and size for the companion MoreThanFive table.
But as with so much technology, digital assistance on its own can miss the mark of human experience. From its inception, Coalesse has maintained a premier Concierge service staffed by subject matter experts who bring extensive product knowledge and responsive attention to detail to its customers. These specialists shoulder the work and shepherd the product through the customization process step-by-step, to reduce the stress on designers and let them focus on doing what they do best: design.
The Concierge team follows through on every web-based LessThanFive custom request, as a seamless part of the product offering—to ensure a rewarding and completely personal experience as each chair is manufactured.
For the customized piece of furniture, personal assistance is as enlightening as technology is empowering. It’s when these two capabilities come together that the deeper engagement of participation takes hold.
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