Develop new ideas. How crowdfunded furniture is helping designers

Kevin ParrishDec 3, 20172 9582 votes +2 rating

It’s an old cliche that the customer is always right. Furniture retailer Made.com is banking its business on this being true, by letting people decide which products are sold on its website.

Anyone can submit their design ideas to Made.com’s new crowdsourcing platform TalentLAB. Once submitted, the site’s design team shortlist the best of the bunch every two months. A sample of the product is made and put on the website.

© Article’s author: Sian Bradley.
© Source: Made.com

How crowdfunded furniture is helping designersThe public then pledge a refundable deposit to their favorite products, and when a product reaches the funding it needs for production, Made.com can begins manufacturing it.

Annabel Kilner, Made.com’s commercial director, thinks it’s important to help designers get their product to the market.

"Without us, designers would have to go through prototyping, making the risk with a sample, then going to pitch out to loads of researchers,” she says. “We take on a lot of the commercial side, which they can often struggle with."

Much like Kickstarter, TalentLAB gives the customer more choice in what they can buy. Kilner, who spoke at WIRED Retail 2017, says its platform is different to others because the the money is a test of interest, rather than a fundraiser. “Other platforms are about making money to fund the designer to get them started. For us, it’s about raising the money so we know there is support out there from customers,” Kilner says.

The online retailer plans to work with around 200 of the TalentLAB designers each year. Designers will be given a brief to design something around a certain theme, using materials chosen by Made.com. Originality is key in attracting customers to your products, Kilner says. “Because you are voting as a customers, there’s an element of ‘I discovered this first, I made this happen’.”

The decision to try out new initiatives such as TalentLAB shouldn’t be taken lightly, Kilner says. “We have so many opportunities thrown our way about how we could develop as a business so the challenge is what do you choose to focus on.” TalentLAB works for Made.com because of its business model – the retailer only orders on demand, so it doesn’t pour money into unsuccessful products.

“We are looking for design that is original, and with that we need beauty and also form and function.” So what would Made.com’s commercial director like to see in the TalentLAB?

“One of the things I wish I had in the house is a nice way of reaching into high cupboards. I think if you could have a beautifully designed pair of ladders that could double up as something else and stay in your room, that would be a great product,” she says.

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