Think about the products you love: a favorite kitchen appliance, a mobile phone, a chair. Chances are you admire them not only for their functionality but for their appealing design, too.
In the maker world, design often takes a backseat to the giddy thrill of just making something work. But in the last few years we’ve seen that attitude change. Ready access to laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC machines (along with easy-to-use software to design and make things) have sparked a new trend toward beautifully designed and manufactured “maker goods.”
Inspired by what we’ve seen at hackerspaces and Maker Faires around the world, we explore “design for makers” in this issue. Our creative director, Jason Babler, decided it was time to redesign MAKE to reflect this new renaissance in DIY art and design. I asked him a couple of questions about our new design, and here’s what he had to say.
MF: Why was MAKE due for a redesign?
JB: Before we talk about why we redesigned, we should talk about why we restructured.
We realized new readers could be confused by the mini-branded sections scattered throughout. We had multiple formats for projects, and we wanted to bring order to the book and make it more accessible.
We focused on simplicity in our approach, eliminating confusing sections and merging redundant ones. We also dropped our rigid design templates and made the stories more lively and varied. Prominent page labels now ground the reader instantly, especially when flipping through our beefy issues. Section openers are clearer, and we’re letting our designers show off their design chops with the opening spreads in the feature section. The magazine will be familiar to current readers, but we’re throwing them some surprises.
MF: Our website was redesigned … er, restructured, too. What was the thinking behind it?
JB: The old design was a bit Frankenstein-ish and never felt fully developed. I wanted to establish more visual hierarchy. We also streamlined the navigation and categorized the content to be more intuitive.
Community is also important to us, and our new site design reflects that. We encourage the entire maker community to interact with us by submitting ideas for articles, projects and kits at blog.makezine.com/contribute.
MF: Besides being the creative director, you’re also a terrific character sculptor. I love the cool monsters you’ve sculpted out of clay. Do you have any tips for makers who want to make their projects look and work their best?
JB: I’ve met a lot of people who are intimidated by the design process, but it’s just about identifying the problem and systematically arriving at a solution. It’s eerily similar to the very skills you needed to make the project itself.
Do you see a mess of wires in your project, and want to hide them? Now you’re thinking about design. Don’t like the size, shape, or function of an off-the-shelf product? Now you’re researching machining and production and finishing. You’re doing what any designer is paid to do: dream, analyze, plan, and make something new.
And the biggest bit of advice? You learn so much from your mistakes; don’t work so hard to avoid them.