From interactive design journey to individualized product

It is a fast-moving world that we live in. A world of rapid digitalization and globalization. Among its many effects and manifestations, this increased pace of life is changing the way consumers behave, with products and services becoming increasingly personalized and individualized as people seek more and different ways of expressing self-determination and uniqueness. Co-creation is gaining new meaning as customers aspire to greater involvement in the creation and design process, which they are increasingly viewing as an added opportunity for self-expression. New and more sophisticated technologies are constantly emerging to meet this demand and provide ever more unique and personalized customer experiences.


In recognition of this trend, the organizers of DOMOTEX, the leading trade fair for floor coverings, have chosen “UNIQUE YOUNIVERSE” as the keynote theme for the 2018 showcase. The “Living Spaces” zone is where exhibitors will team up with partners from the interior design sector to craft inspiring spaces and innovative lifestyle realms.


Sportswear manufacturer Nike’s “NIKEiD” customizable shoe service has been around since the late 1990s. A user-friendly software interface guides customers through the design process step by step as they select color, material and labeling to create their own personalized footwear. The shoes are delivered three to five weeks after the order is placed.


Austrian upholstered furniture maker Wittmann, which gives it customers the option of being present while their furniture is being made. Lamborghini is another case in point. The Italian supercar maker has seen a sharp increase in its personalized car business. In 2016, half of all the luxury cars it sold were custom-finished, although with a total output 500 to 700 vehicles per model.


In the interior design and furnishing sector, product individualization for the most part means allowing the customer to select individual product elements from within a set range.


Then there’s the recently announced joint project between British designer Tom Dixon and the Swedish furniture giant IKEA. The two are planning a modular sofa bed that IKEA customers can plan online and endlessly adapt and customize using add-on items and components. The basic frame for the sofa bed will consist of extruded aluminum sections made from 40 percent recycled material. IKEA plans to launch the sofa bed platform, known as “Delaktig” (Swedish for “involved”), on the market at the start of 2018.


Individualized products are the result of a combination of skilled manual and industrial production and digital control and ordering technologies. Projects pioneering this area used to be looked upon as quaint gimmickry, but now, with the digital transformation of production in full swing, the sky is the limit. More and more manufacturers are enabling their customers to provide feedback on their products and effectively have input into the brand creation process. In the not-too-distant future, the world may see completely new genres of products whose forms and uses – in some cases combined with services – are radically different from those of the products we know today.