Iterative design, 3D printing, co-creation and marshmallows

3D printing makes it possible to produce unique one-off designs for reasonable costs. This enables designers to implement design improvements based on customer-feedback. It is one of the aspects of co-creation where consumers and designers work together on a design.
Using iterative design a design can stay relevant for longer times — theoretically even forever. Technological capabilities are constantly improving and products can take advantage of that by using the new capabilities of the design. Also the expectations on what is fashionable and what is not changes over time. And last user experience can be used as input to improve function. Parts can break due to wear and tear.

Traditionally the concept of iterative design is employed within product design teams. You see it a lot in software development — especially in agile development environments. Developers or designers quickly deliver a prototype which is shared with the whole team and sometimes customers. They provide feedback which is used an input for the next iteration cycle. Also the open source software development mantra “release early, release often” is trying to achieve the same thing.

New technologies like the internet but also 3D printing make it possible to bring the product development cycle into the open and allows for faster feedback cycles. Especially on-demand production and zero stock policies make it possible to adapt a product design immediately.

There is a game often used to in team training session which is called the Marshmallow Challenge. Each team gets 1m / 3ft tape, 1m / 3ft string, 20 sticks of spaghetti and a marshmallow. The objective is to build the highest stable freestanding structure with the marshmallow on top. It is interesting that children are much better at this than adults. Children start building immediately and start over when they fail. Effectively they are using iterative design to come quickly to the best solution.