Crowd-Sourced Product Design

By Jaime Gillin / Published by Dwell
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Founded by the 23-year-old entrepreneur Ben Kaufman—who previously developed an award-winning iPod accessory when he was still in high school—Quirky offers a, yes, quirky new approach to product design and development.

The online company launched in June 2009, bringing creative inventions like the 'Pivot Power,' pictured above, into production through the power of crowd-sourcing. Every week Quirky reaches out to its 30,000 community members, soliciting their input and collaboration on every aspect of creating a product from scratch, from conceptual design and naming to sales and marketing. Once the concept has been thoroughly fleshed out and sexily rendered, it goes on 'pre-sale' in Quirky's online store. If interest and sales are healthy enough, it goes into actual production, and the profits get divided among the contributers who helped create it.


Pivot Power, mentioned above, recently went into production. It's a flexible power strip that bends into circular, semi-circular, and zig-zag shapes, to fit around furniture and accomodate large adapters. It retails for $25. To trace the development process, check out the 'development history' section of the site, where Pivot Power's main designer, RISD student Jake Zien, offers a concept overview and production updates.


Here's the Kerio, a hand-cranked food grinder that chops scraps into easily compostable chunks. It's still in the pre-sale phase.


And here's the Switch, billed as "the perfect pocket knife." Its modular design allows users to customize the tool by choosing from 18 different attachments.


Do you have any great ideas that answer some obscure niche need? Submit it here and you may launch the site's next best-seller—and turn a profit, too.

Jaime Gillin


When not writing, editing, or combing design magazines and blogs for inspiration, Jaime Gillin is experimenting with new recipes, traveling as much as possible, and tackling minor home-improvement projects that inevitably turn out to be more complex than anticipated.

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