Democratizing design: Bridging the gap between experts and everyday makers

Engineering Director

About the salon

With new technology and tools leveling the design playing field, the traditional boundaries between professional and amateur are blurring. We were honored to welcome three guest panelists from Casper, Makelab, and Sygma to discuss the increasing accessibility of design tools and what that means for the future. 

Throughout the discussion, panelists emphasized how tool accessibility simultaneously opens up who can design and what can be customized, while also increasing concerns about design quality and safety. 3D printing accessibility was a primary topic of conversation: with such diverse technologies available, it’s crucial to select the right tool for the job and be cognizant of potential quality limitations with lower-cost options. The panelists also discussed how tool accessibility is impacting product development, including the potential for mass customization. They view these tools as playing a big role in fostering learning, communication, and potentially a more sustainable future. As with many technological advances, the discussion concluded by acknowledging ethical and safety concerns about democratizing design. When everyone has access to it, there is a continued importance of design education for future generations.

Our panelists

Brett Andler is the co-founder of Sygma, a software platform that helps high-performing hardware teams mitigate risk and ship great products without schedule slips. Before starting Sygma, he designed hardware at Square, Smart, and Shark. He’s got a thing for companies that start with the letter S. 

Dan Connors is the Engineering Product Design Manager at Casper, a global sleep company that is one of the fastest-growing consumer brands of all time, which started with one perfect mattress. Its critically acclaimed sleep surface was developed in-house, has a sleek design, and is delivered in a small, “how did they do that?”​-sized box. 

Christina Perla is the Co-Founder & CEO of Makelab, where they deliver localized 3D printing solutions to consumer & hardware brands making physical products. Christina has over six years of experience in the additive manufacturing industry and was honored to be recognized by Forbes as one of the Next 1000 entrepreneurs in 2021.

About Vincent Valderrama

Vincent is an engineering director who is inspired by nature and complex (and simple) mechanical systems. He brings expertise in mechanical design, design for manufacturability and assembly, and value engineering. He has worked in sectors including consumer packaged goods, housewares, and medical devices, with notable clients such as OXO, L’Oreal, and Millipore Sigma. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from Lehigh University and was named inventor on more than 40 patents. Vincent is also the host of a show for Epicurious on YouTube called “Tried & Tested.”

Let’s design a smarter world together