Immediate Context & Online Creation

IN THE last couple of weeks, I wrote about Online Creation. Things I am thinking about are, what makes a product relevant? What motivates people to create online? One of the striking aspects of creation is that when you give people a blank canvas, they have no inspiration on what to create. This is called the Blank Canvas Syndrome.

I think one of the major barriers to overcome for Personal Fabrication & 3D Printing for home users is solving the Blank Canvas Syndrome.

An important aspect of the online creation process is immediate context. People need to immediately grasp the context on how a particular concept applies to them. They need to be able to understand how to use it and what they can do with it. Even when it is only at a superficial level.

What does it mean for me?
How would I use it?

When looking at creation for 3D printing, there is, for example, TinkerCAD. TinkerCAD is an awesome 3D online creation tool. It is easy to use and simple to understand. But if you show it to somebody, they do know what to do with it. It is missing immediate context. The same applies to 3D printers as a whole. If you ask, they do not know.

If you look at Twitter and Facebook, it is immediately clear what the context is and how it would apply to the user. I regard Twitter and Facebook also as online creation services. I think their success is very much related to this.

If you look at 3D printing of products, one of the latest popular successes was printing of your Minecraft creations. Eric Haines wrote a software application to export Minecraft models and save them as readily  3D printable files. The power of this concept is that there is no need to explain the proposition to the users. It generated immediate excitement among the Minecraft community.

Now I do not want to say that Minecraft is the ultimate 3D printing proposition – far from it – but it does show that easy to understand concepts work way better than more free-form solutions. At least for the general public. I hope we see more examples popping up in the coming year, and I would love to hear ideas on how to improve immediate context for 3D printing.

  • Mark Bloomfield

    Great beginning to a what I’m sure will be a much discussed topic. I often introduce designers, students and friends to a blank sheet of paper as the ‘realm of infinite possibilities’, which to some can be a scary concept!
     Often it’s easier to look at a finished product and decide if you like it or not rather than to think about what you’d actually want if you could have anything. CAD tools and 3D printing go some way to help correct this balance but CAD, coming up with ideas and solving problems is not for everyone!I still feel that we’re exploring the early stages of mass customisation, rather than mass production and that 3D printing will be one of the technologies that delivers it, but for successful uptake it does require the customer to begin to think about that blank sheet of paper!I’m sure there will be many other engaging tools, like the Minecraft example, that continue to show the potential for 3D printing, shifting the customers expectation into the realm of infinite possibilities!


    • Robert Schouwenburg

      Great comment. Thanks! Yes, it is still early days. That is why it is on my mind! I love to see / be part of how things will progress the coming years.

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