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The Sharing Economy of Design

Image © Gensler

Once upon a time, design was cut-and-dried. Need a logo? Done. Need an interior space? Done. Problems were approached in an extremely client centric way. One might think, “Of course! That’s how it should be!” But is it?

The way we approach problems should always lean towards improving the human experience. Those problems might be brought to light by a single client at a time, but solving them from a holistic perspective will help create systems of solutions that are flexible and extensible.

The evolution of design begins by thinking about client problems as global problems. We must ask, how might we solve this problem for anyone? How can we design solutions that benefit the community and allow for the creation of new markets?

One answer: take a look at businesses implementing a “sharing economy” model to understand the benefits of such an approach. Companies like Uber and Airbnb provide a platform for anyone to become an entrepreneur, sharing their resources for a fee. The 2015 1099 Economy Workforce Report found that taxi drivers using Uber can make up to $12/hour more—a 100 percent increase—than they would driving a traditional taxi. This kind of platform provides a basis for industry and individual growth.

The sharing economy model not only works for companies like Uber and Airbnb; it may work for the architecture and design industry as well. It will encourage buildings to be designed with future needs in mind. New, improved systems and standards will be shared openly across industries.

Take, for example, a new commercial building. If we create the design understanding that the building will evolve long after it’s completed, perhaps we will be able to devise systems that allow for contractors to easily change spaces or build upon them. The building becomes the platform for future improvements. The systems and standards we’ve put in place, when shared openly, will allow others to build upon what we’ve started, leading to the growth of a new market.

The creation and standardization of extensible systems should be openly shared. Imagine how we could benefit society by making this kind of information more accessible. By creating a universal language by which to transfer data, we could establish a platform that’s simple enough for anyone to understand—information could then be shared globally.

By creating a flexible, extensible platform for design, we begin designing for the benefit of everyone, not just the individual client. When we shake the mindset of exclusivity, we will open more doors to more opportunity than we can imagine.

Christine Maurer is a product manager in Gensler's La Crosse office. Contact her at christine_maurer@gensler.com.

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