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Made in Sioux Falls, Web Design, and the Maker Mentality

The next Sioux Falls Made convention is coming up fast, this December 4th. There will be hundreds of craftsmen, entrepreneurs, and other Makers displaying a staggering variety of goods from cranberry-jalapeño wine to air plants to leather jewelry. More importantly, there will be a lot of information about the Maker Movement.

What on Earth is a Maker?
Well, according to Adweek:

The maker movement…is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers…A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have…hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers. The creations, born in cluttered local workshops and bedroom offices, stir the imaginations of consumers numbed by generic, mass-produced, made-in–China merchandise.

In short, Makers are the DIY people of the naughties, who have found themselves empowered by the rise of crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, 3D printing, and other technologies that have taken solopreneurship out of the realm of the Internet marketer and made it something that anyone can do. (The failure of the economy to provide an adequate supply of above-minimum-wage jobs hasn’t hurt, either — it’s a lot easier to turn into a Maker when your other option is flipping burgers!)

<img src=”” class=”aligncenter” alt=”A billboard exhorting people to INVENT!” longdesc=”Sioux Falls Web Design”/>

(Image courtesy of Speednut Dave via Flickr.)

This movement is one that is impacting nearly every aspect of Sioux Falls. Web design is my business, and I’m sitting here typing about Makers, not because they’re fascinating, inspiring, and extremely disruptive to the big-brand economy we all love/hate (though they are all those things) — but because they’re relevant to web design.

Web Designing for Maker-Related Industries
First, the mind of a Maker doesn’t ask “where can I get it?”; it asks “where can I get what I need to make it?” For web designers, this can create a significant opportunity. Rather than viewing the Maker movement as a disruption to an existing marketplace (i.e. Parker Bros. getting upset at the rise of cheap printed board games), many successful companies — large and quite small — are successfully embracing the desire Makers have to find information.

<img src=”” class=”aligncenter” alt=”An agenda board at a tech-oriented Maker Faire” longdesc=”Sioux Falls Web Design”/>

(Image courtesy of Informatique via Flickr.)

If you have clients that are in industries that could potentially be impinged upon by the Maker movement, encourage them to consider how they could encourage it instead. Creating an online space where Makers in their industry can collaborate and share ideas is one great option, especially if there isn’t already a well-known one or if there’s a strong local Maker presence in that industry. They could also host a variety of instructions on how Makers can modify or add to their products to give them additional functionality or value.

Web Design as a Maker Activity
You, dear fellow web designer, may also find that you’re in the same boat! Maker-dom doesn’t only apply to handcrafted old-Levis-turned-into-new-handbags or 3D-printed board games — it’s a philosophy that quite handily extends into the digital world. Someone who is creating their own goods might very well want to create the website that hosts those goods — and if they blow up crazy large, they might be depriving you of some serious income by remaining “designer independent.”

<a href=””/><img src=”” class=”aligncenter” alt=”A demonstration at a Maker Faire about learning JavaScript” longdesc=”Sioux Falls Web Design”/></a>

(Image courtesy of TaeDC via Flickr.)

So be prepared to shift gears and offer the Makers in your community your services not as a creator of websites, but as an educator, teaching them how to find and use the tools that they need to apply their own sense of design and ‘functionality tuning’ to their websites. Sure, you might not be able to charge quite as much, but that’s way better than not being able to charge at all because they decided to run completely on their own.

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