The Toastheds project is an effort to help democratize manufacturing by making professional-level product design available to the maker community.
The goal of this project is to make a unique, high-quality toy design freely available with no royalties to CNC hobbyists and small businesses which make and sell wooden toys.
As the current design is the starting point for final toy design, the individual phases of this project are as follows:
1) revise and finalize the existing Toasthed toy design
2) generate 3D CAD documentation of the design
3) prep 3D CAD model for simple CNC machining
4) fabricate a working prototype from the CNC-ready CAD
5) evaluate the resulting prototype and modify as necessary
6) submit patent and trademark applications (*reasons why explained below)
7) make the CNC CAD files available for download
APPLICATION OF FUNDS
The funds contributed to this project will go toward paying a portion of the typical design fees a corporation would pay an independent product design freelancer. Additionally, for this project I'll be sourcing the working prototype with a U.S.-based service bureau, and also be paying to secure intellectual property rights (see USPTO fee schedule). And, of course, some of the money will go toward materials and providing rewards.
In addition, since the initial design was peripherally inspired by the comic "Stray Toasters", I'll donate 5% of what I clear to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Lastly, because reviving this toy design is inspired by my grand niece, Vanessa, who hopefully will be walking soon, I'll be taking 10% of what I clear and putting it toward her college education.
As some rewards involve development materials, here are some examples:
- product development sketch page
- original marker rendering examples
From start to finish, the goal is to have this project as complete as possible within four months; the only things outstanding being the patent and trademark awards. Rewards would follow shortly after.
During this period I'll put time toward finalizing the design. The overall shape is in the ballpark, but I never finalized Toasthed's functionality. Do the pieces of toast simply move up and down? Do they spring up when the "nose" impacts a barrier? Do the eyes bobble? These and other questions were never resolved in what was originally a very fast project. Consequently, the design itself isn't complete (the design shown in the image is a quick foam model I sculpted). It'll take a bit more work to get to a point where the design can be documented in CAD.
Furthermore, I'll be allocating additional time looking for ways to leverage the flexible nature in which hobbyists/small businesses work. There might be some nice opportunities for customization; think Build-a-Bear. For example, maybe there are a variety of toy eyes from which the community of independent makers can select. Stuff like that.
Finally, toys are notoriously tricky. Hand traps, finger traps, pinch points, parts that can be swallowed, etc etc. Kids do curious things and the design should, as best possible, attempt to mitigate any potential harm for the end user. Industrial designers spend much of their time not only imagining how a product might be used, but also misused. Safety is paramount, and for that reason I may have another designer - someone with extensive experience in the toy industry - provide an expert opinion. (For examples of what can go wrong in our manufacturing democratized future, you might want to read something I wrote not long ago for my "Future Imperfect" column: "Caveat emptor: news reports from the Age of Direct Digital Manufacturing")
The Toasthed toy design developed and finalized here will be open source; however, its commercial use will be limited. I want individuals and small businesses to be able to make and sell this toy if they choose. I do not want some knock-off manufacturer overseas to offer this design in a catalog of available toys and subsequently see the results of a community effort on the local Big Box Retailer's shelves. The only way to potentially ... partially ... stop such activity is by using the same IP laws which corporations depend upon. I don't want to do this, but I don't see any reasonable alternative.
In all likelihood I wouldn't try suing some sleazy manufacturer in, say, Thailand. But I could sue Big Box Retailer for selling this design in the U.S. And I would. If I did, and I won, I'd put a large portion of the net winnings into either more projects like this one to help the maker community grow, or donate to a children's charity.
Conversely, the possibility exists this toy might attract the interest of a large toy manufacturer willing to pay a royalty to manufacture a recycled plastic version (I wouldn't allow a wooden version which might compete with small businesses, nor a virgin resin version produced in high volumes). Should we make a deal, 75% of any net income derived from such an agreement would go to charity. The remainder will be used to help me continue doing these sorts of projects; perhaps to set up my own CNC so I can prototype my own designs and eliminate some cost from another project.
Finally, a good question is: What's the cut-off? At which point does a business no longer qualify to make and sell this toy without violating the principles upon which it was funded? Honestly, I'm not sure. I intend to do some research, consult with a legal professional, and present that question to the people funding this project, after which I'll make a decision. Off the top of my head I'm thinking any individual or business netting less than US$250,000 per year should be able to use this design to make toys they can either give away or sell. Too high? Too low? I don't know. You tell me. I'm certainly not going to police small businesses. However, if some small shops are getting killed by a relatively large operation (perhaps using cheap overseas labor) and they bring it to my attention, I'll do what I can to put things right. That's where the IP protection will come in handy.
There's a lot of buzz around 3D printers and how they'll revolutionize manufacturing. I know. I'm probably one of the better known voices on the internet discussing the technology and its potential impact. However, 3D printers are in their infancy. They're bleeding edge. They're on the horizon, but that's tomorrow. Meanwhile, home-based, computer-controlled milling machines (CNC) are mature technology. They're still cutting edge, but they're here now.
CNC's are already being used by hobbyists and small, home-based businesses. Some people are purchasing their machines while others are building them using freely available plans. And now, via the 100KGarages effort launched by Ponoko from which this project gets its name, there's a maker's network into which anyone can tap. If America is going to regain some of its lost manufacturing prowess, I believe this is how it will begin: tools will become increasingly available to everyone and the products will be produced locally. It's not only economically beneficial but environmentally smart.
One major problem I've noticed is a lack of well-designed product for these people to fabricate. Go to any 3D file repository (e.g. Google's 3D Warehouse) and you'll find plenty of stuff that can't be easily used; it's either IP-protected or unsuitable for CNC fabrication. What's needed are professional quality designs free of IP restrictions and developed with the CNC fabrication process in mind. As a professional industrial designer, that's a major part of what I do for a living. I can offer the community those designs.
That's one reason why I'm starting this project. There's another reason.
Professional product designers like myself are hired by corporations. All our ideas - including the ones which never go into development - are owned by the corporations. In some cases, even those ideas which designers dream up on their free time is contractually claimed by their employers. That's the game. There aren't many options.
If you've wondered why there are so many other creatives on the internet but so few product designers, here's why. We're tied to corporations. We're tied to manufacturing processes. Our profession, Industrial Design, was born of their need to inject humanity into industrial goods.
Among other things, professionally educated industrial designers bring artistic aesthetics, ergonomics and other human-centric perspectives to a mass-production item. Want to see how we impact everyone's lives? Watch this trailer for the recently released independent film, Objectified - YouTube Link.
Until manufacturing processes become more fully democratized, the profession will remain largely beholden to the corporations who own the factories and can pay a salary; either directly through employment or indirectly through design firms.
In the long line of creatives who stand to be impacted by the internet and "sharing", industrial designers are at the end. We're protected by process; safe from the changes which have impacted graphic designers, musicians and photographers. The professional design community can afford to be oblivious. But not for long.
So rather than wait, this is an effort to find a way forward; to go to the community and let it decide where I put my time; with large multi-national corporations or with you.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $7,500 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on November 1, 2009.
Sep 22, 2009 - Nov 1, 2009
Pledge $5 or more
Emailed newsletter updates, providing additional insight into the project's process; including commentary, sketches, photos, and anything else of relevance.
Pledge $10 or more
All of the above plus you'll receive a personalized 100K Stray Toasthed post card thanking you for your support (cuz getting post cards you can put on the fridge is kewl).
Pledge $25 or more
All of the above, plus a custom-designed, digitally signed certificate of participation in the 100K Stray Toasthed Pull Toys project, provided as a high-resolution electronic file suitable for quality printing and framing. Makers wanting reputation points will want this hanging in their shop.
Pledge $50 or more
All of the above, plus a detailed project documentation e-book; including all development sketches, photographs, and more; provided in PDF format suitable for printing and binding. If you're a maker aspiring to do more design, a product designer wanting to get the inside scoop, or just someone with a serious interest, this will answer questions and (hopefully) spark some ideas.
Pledge $100 or more
All of the above, plus a signed high-quality poster print commemorating the community-backed development of the Toasthed toy. The digital art will likely include as part of its composition an illustration used for the original marker rendering along with a selection of manipulated product development sketches, making these prints unique "digital composite illustrations". Sizing is still dependent on print service selected, but the vertically oriented size will hopefully be approximately 14"W x 24"H. I'm basing the format on a Derek Hess concert poster I own, so you can expect this to have that sensibility (i.e. it's gonna be product design pr0n). Shipping is free within the U.S., however, international shipping will be handled on an individual basis as it must be paid for by the recipient.
Pledge $250 or more
1 backer Limited (9 of 10 left)
All of the above, plus an original, signed development sketch of the Toasthed toy; best ones only. Design sketches are typically done using a mix of Verithin pencil, ballpoint pen, and gray markers, on a 9" x 12" sheet of vellum (see an example linked in About This Project>Rewards). Shipping is free within the U.S., however, international shipping will be handled on an individual basis as it must be paid for by the recipient.
Pledge $500 or more
0 backers Limited (1 of 1 left)
All of the above, plus the original, signed marker rendering of the Toasthed toy. Renderings are mixed media and often involve mounting marker vellum to Bristol board or foam core on which additional media is applied. Size can vary and be customized up to 19" x 24" (see examples linked in About This Project>Rewards). Shipping and insurance within the U.S. included. International shipping included. Insurance, if any, on international shipments is to be paid by recipient.
Pledge $1,000 or more
0 backers Limited (1 of 1 left)
LIMITED REWARD 1 of 1 remaining All of the above minus the original marker rendering but including the first wooden, CNC-cut prototype created during the development of this toy. Shipping and insurance within the U.S. included. International shipping included. Insurance, if any, on international shipments is to be paid by recipient.