Sensory Assault
June 15, 2016
A.R.E.|POPAI Economic Advisor April 2016
June 15, 2016

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As the maker culture has reached fever pitch, with marketers and creatives nearly fetishizing “the glory of handmade creation,” as Adweek puts it, a new facet of the movement is taking place that leverages the power of both mobility and education. Makerspaces—defined as places of invention, exploration, and creation—are popping up as standalone venues as well as temporary or movable exhibits in places like schools, libraries, museums, and community centers. Some have even reportedly appeared in the form of mobile trucks or bike trailers that offer unique, hands-on learning experiences within their communities.

“For those with the drive to expand opportunities to make through makerspaces, finding the space can often be a formidable barrier. Fortunately, makers are clever folks, and are continually finding alternative ways to think about spaces,” according to MakerEd, a non-profit organization that supports and empowers educators and communities—particularly, those in underserved areas—to facilitate meaningful making and learning experiences with youth.

These informal communities, also known as Movable Makers, are representative of a new consumer mindset that finds value in the art and science of handcrafted products as well as the flexible, almost nomadic nature of their members.

Young manual worker using digital tablet in a workshop.

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The Atmel Corporation, a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of microcontrollers, has calculated that there are approximately 135 million adult Makers in the U.S. This represents more than half (57%) of the American population 18 and over, and does not include the millions of children and teenagers who are active in STEM projects through science fairs, robotics teams, and tinkering in their basements.

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Additionally, Amtel cites a number of momentous events and economic benchmarks have cemented this movement as a formidable one for brands to consider in light of ongoing interest in the handcrafted market and the implications for future consumer trends:

  1. The White House held its inaugural Maker Faire in 2014: “Today’s D.I.Y. is tomorrow’s “Made in America.’”
  2. President Barack Obama proclaimed June 17 through June 23, 2016, as the National Week of Making, calling upon all Americans to observe the week with programs, ceremonies, and activities that encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers to share their talents and hone their skills.
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  1. There have been over 400 Maker Faires organized around the world since 2012.
  2. A record 235,000 people attended the two flagship Maker Faires in the Bay Area and New York in 2015, with more than 2,100 maker entries between both locations.
  3. More than $2.4 billion has been pledged by 10.9 million backers to 106,765 successfully-funded Kickstarter projects to date.
  4. com, which maintains a database tracking activity across the top 35 investment crowdfunding platforms, estimates that the total global crowdfunding industry estimated fundraising volume in 2015 was $34 billion.
  5. By 2025, the crowdfunding investment market is projected to reach $93 billion.
  6. The 3D printing market is projected to be worth $8 billion by 2020.
  7. World demand for 3D printing is projected to increase more than 20% per year to $5 billion in 2017.



The rise of the maker culture is closely associated with the rise of hackerspaces (places in which people with an interest in computing or technology can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge), Fab Labs (small-scale workshops offering personal, digital fabrication capabilities), and other “maker spaces,” including over 100 each in Germany and the U.S. As maker culture increases in popularity, hackerspaces and Fab Labs are also becoming more common in public libraries and universities, such as MIT and Carnegie Mellon (specifically around “shop” areas like the MIT Hobby Shop and CMU Robotics Club).

Additionally, the launch of the Maker Faire in the Bay Area in 2006 demonstrated the popularity of making and interest among legions of aspiring makers to participate in hands-on activities and learn new skills at the event, according to show organizers, Maker Media. Even brands like Barnes & Noble have embraced the Maker trend, hosting a Mini Maker Faire of its own in November of 2015, and setting up pop-up shops at the National Maker Faire in Washington in June 2016.

Maker Faire is primarily designed to be forward-looking, showcasing makers who are exploring new forms and new technologies. But it’s not just for the novel in technical fields; Maker Faire features innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance and craft.


There has been a spate of mobile and adaptable cultural projects internationally in recent months, including the Design Museum Dharavi, which harnesses the creative skills of the one million-strong residents of this Mumbai district. The area is home to more than 20,000 micro-factories, and the museum will highlight the skills housed in this community of informal dwellings, from ceramics to leather goods and laser-cutting. The museum will move every week for two months, reflecting the flexible and nomadic lifestyle of the designers involved.

Another recent example is The Moving Museum from Aya Mousawi and Simon Sakhai, or Station to Station: A 30-day Happening from Doug Aitken—reflecting a newly global, restless, and peripatetic consumer mindset.

Here in the U.S. the Movable Makers trend has been manifested in the recent opening of the first pop-up store, Make: Store, in San Francisco’s iconic Union Square during the holidays in 2015.

Photo credit: Maker Faire

Photo credit: Maker Faire

“We’re really excited to bring a selection of our most popular products to a physical location where new consumers can be exposed to the thrill of making, and our offering of DIY electronics, kits, and books that facilitate finding your inner Maker,” said Gregg Brockway, CEO of MakerMedia, publisher of Make: magazine and producer of the popular Maker Faires.

Like the online Maker Shed, the physical Make: Store location offers a curated selection of drones, DIY kits, 3D printers, robotics, microcontrollers, Make: books, and tools—perfect for Makers of every level, from kids to the skilled expert. Located in the heart of Union Square, the Make: Store features a DIY self-gift wrapping station, author talks, “ask a maker,” interactive workshops, and product and kit demonstrations.

  1. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. With this DIY-influenced mindset, it’s all about a hands-on approach. Brands that equip consumers with tools and spaces to work with their hands and bring their ideas to life will resonate with Makers.
  2. Think pop-up. Mobility and the ability to work anywhere are the hallmarks of the digital era. Movable Makers convene wherever opportunities present themselves; all they need are the tools, materials, and temporary space to give birth to new ideas. Set up labs and incubators for creativity wherever space permits, or bring space to them with mobile Maker trucks.
  3. Get collaborative. Public spaces that already exist in the form of museums, libraries, schools, and community centers are the perfect places to host temporary Maker events that will inspire. Partnering with these institutions brings value to them, the community, and the brands that support them.
  4. Foster creativity. Help aspiring Makers to explore, create, and innovate by facilitating workshops with local artisans who have perfected their crafts. Offer challenges that stretch their thinking and reward their efforts.
  5. Embrace technology. With the emergence of 3D technology, the Maker Movement isn’t just about traditional crafts and trades, but is also highly technical. Scientific innovations are being discovered as Makers push the boundaries of new materials and techniques in the science of creating by hand.

1 Comment

  1. We love Make-Tailers! Definitely think that they represent the next wave of innovative retailers. Here’s more on Make-Tailers from the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in January 2016:

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