A lampshade that invites you to stitch your own pattern onto the surface. It comes with a darning needle and an online community hub where you can plan out designs and see those made by others.
Why it’s Awesome:
LampGustaf has created a product where the digital community is just as important as the object itself.
What makes the Stitch Lamp intriguing is the fact that LampGustaf is actively trying to engage its customers and have its customers engage one another through a community hub developed in tandem with the lamp.
As a product, the lamp shade bears more similarities to the blank t-shirts that Threadless prints community voted designs on. The physical item does not hold much value in and of itself. The true value lies in a web hub that allows the fan community to generate ideas that appeal to other fans.
LampGustaf facilitates this with an intuitive Pattern Making program that lets visitors draw out a design before printing it out or saving it. The interface is clean and elegant with movable pop-out windows for colors and patterns. Each stitch you draw is shadowed as a reminder that your piece isn’t exactly flat and the program gives you the option to view and rotate your drawing in 3D.
Products that act as user-content platforms are not new but most have been limited to niche or digital cultures. For example, a lot of programs with semi-open architectures have communities dedicated to add-ons or modifications for extra functionality. Likewise, hobby modeling cultures often revolve around embellishing scale models and competitions of craftsmanship. The great limiting factor to these cultures is investment of time and effort but the Stitch Lamp’s emphasis on social identity brings use-content closer towards general consumer culture. Unfortunately, the entrance into user-content platforms and community development brings about all new design problems.
The success of DIY products hinge heavily on positive user experiences. LampGustaf fails to address potential pitfalls.
The lamp has the potential to be sophisticated but without proper marketing it risks being labeled as a child’s plaything or a platform for tacky art projects. Most of the showcased user-designs are rather crude and uninspired. LampGustaf’s own sample patterns reinforces this concept with stick-figure animals and generic flowers. The emphasis on iconography rather then repeating patterns suggests that the company and the users perceive the lamp as a presentation piece rather then an accent piece.
This leads to the other problem, which is the fact that the product is marketed as a sculpture instead of a lamp. There is not a single photo or simulation of the lamp at night. All marketing materials highlight the stitch-work, even though the stitches may not be visible at night. There’s nothing to suggest how thread density or bulb brightness would affect the lighted result. Will light poke through the thread holes or is the lighting limited to a vertical projection? How harsh will the lighting be without a translucent lampshade? Would the stitched colors and shapes be visible at night without a second light source? By neglecting to inform the user of what kind of lighting conditions to expect, I believe LampGustaf is setting users up for frustration.
A related concern is the purported ability to translate a digital image into a tapestry that covers one’s lamp. The process reduces the image’s resolution to match the lampshade’s hole count but the program fails to reduce the number of colors it uses to a manageable number. While some people may not mind using 12 different blue threads to stitch the sky of a landscape scene, the lack of an option to reduce the number of colors used is poor design. At worst it can deceive unsaavy users into thinking that rich gradients will be easy to create. This problem is akin to the JPEG / GIF dichotomy and can be solved by integrating software that allows the user to pick how many colors he or she would like to use.
As a pioneer product, Stitch Lamp’s shortcoming are par for course.
None of the problems are death sentences considering that the user-content approach to consumer products is largely in the early-adopter phase. It remains to see what what elements different types of consumers find meaningful
LampGustaf’s Stitch lamp is relevant because it’s not the next step of customization but the next step of user participation. It’s a transition from a web program to a physical object. Since the product is only over a month old it’s too early to comment on how successful it is but I am hopeful that it will grow into something amazing.