User Designed

Empowering customers as creators and entrepreneurs

User Designed Business Model Pattern

User Designed Business Model Pattern

The user designed business model pattern empowers customers to design, manufacture, and sell their own products, with the company providing the necessary tools, resources, and support.

What is the User Designed Business Model Pattern?

The user designed business model pattern is a strategy where a company provides customers with the tools, resources, and support to design, manufacture, and sell their own products. In this model, the customer takes on the role of both the manufacturer and the consumer, while the company acts as an enabler and facilitator of the customer’s creative and entrepreneurial endeavors. The company benefits from the customer’s creativity and innovation, while the customer benefits from the ability to bring their ideas to life without having to invest heavily in infrastructure and resources.

Why is the User Designed Business Model Pattern Important?

The user designed business model pattern is important because it offers several key benefits for businesses and their customers:

  • Customer Empowerment: By providing customers with the tools and support to design and create their own products, companies empower individuals to express their creativity and bring their unique ideas to market.
  • Increased Customer Engagement: When customers are actively involved in the design and creation process, they become more engaged with the company and its products, leading to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Reduced R&D Costs: By leveraging the creativity and innovation of their customers, companies can reduce their own research and development costs, as they no longer need to rely solely on internal resources to generate new product ideas.
  • Expanded Product Offerings: User-designed products can help companies expand their product offerings and cater to niche markets that may have been previously underserved or overlooked.
  • Viral Marketing: Customers who design and sell their own products are likely to promote their creations to their personal networks, providing a form of viral marketing for the company and its platform.

History and Background to the User Designed Business Model

The user-designed business model pattern has its roots in the open-source software movement, which gained prominence in the 1990s. The concept of involving users in the design and development process has since been applied to various industries, including product design, fashion, and even scientific research.

One of the early pioneers of this approach was Eric von Hippel, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. In his book “Democratizing Innovation” (2005), von Hippel argues that users, rather than manufacturers, are often the source of most innovation. He introduces the concept of “lead users,” who are early adopters with advanced needs that foreshadow general market demand. By involving these lead users in the design process, companies can create more innovative and successful products.

Impact on the Business Model

The user designed business model pattern significantly impacts various aspects of a company’s overall business model:

  • Value Proposition: The company’s value proposition shifts from providing finished products to offering a platform and support services that enable customers to design, manufacture, and sell their own products.
  • Key Resources: The company’s key resources include the software, tools, and infrastructure needed to facilitate user design and manufacturing, as well as the expertise to support customers throughout the process.
  • Customer Relationships: The company’s relationship with its customers becomes more collaborative and supportive, as it works closely with them to help bring their ideas to life and succeed in the marketplace.
  • Revenue Streams: Revenue is generated through various means, such as platform fees, commissions on product sales, or charges for additional services like manufacturing, shipping, or marketing support.
  • Key Partners: The company may partner with suppliers, manufacturers, and logistics providers to offer a seamless end-to-end experience for its customers.

How to Implement the User Designed Business Model Pattern

To successfully implement the user designed business model pattern, companies should follow these steps:

  • Develop a User-Friendly Platform: Create a platform that provides customers with intuitive tools and resources for designing, prototyping, and manufacturing their products, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable user experience.
  • Offer Comprehensive Support: Provide customers with comprehensive support throughout the design and manufacturing process, including technical assistance, design guidance, and troubleshooting.
  • Establish Reliable Manufacturing Partnerships: Partner with reliable manufacturers who can produce high-quality products based on customer designs, ensuring timely delivery and customer satisfaction.
  • Streamline Logistics and Fulfillment: Develop efficient logistics and fulfillment processes to handle the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping of customer-designed products.
  • Foster a Community of Creators: Encourage interaction and collaboration among customers by creating a community platform where they can share ideas, provide feedback, and collaborate on projects.
  • Continually Improve and Innovate: Regularly gather feedback from customers and analyze platform data to identify areas for improvement and opportunities for innovation, ensuring that the platform remains competitive and valuable to users.

Trigger Questions

  • What products, services, or experiences would our customers be excited to co-design or customize to their specific needs and preferences?
  • How can we provide user-friendly tools, platforms, or interfaces that enable customers to easily express their creativity and bring their ideas to life?
  • What community-building and collaboration features can we offer to facilitate connection and inspiration among our user designers?
  • How can we streamline the production and fulfillment processes to efficiently translate user designs into high-quality, personalized offerings?
  • What recognition, rewards, or royalty programs can we implement to incentivize and celebrate our most talented and engaged user designers?
  • How can we leverage user-generated designs and insights to drive product innovation, customer loyalty, and business growth over time?

Examples of the User Designed Business Model Pattern

  • Zazzle: Zazzle is an online marketplace that allows users to create, design, and sell a wide range of customized products, such as clothing, accessories, home decor, and gifts, using the company’s design tools and manufacturing services.
  • Spreadshirt: Spreadshirt is a platform that enables users to create and sell custom-designed t-shirts, hoodies, and other apparel items, handling the printing, shipping, and customer service on behalf of the designers.
  • Shapeways: Shapeways is a 3D printing platform that allows users to design, prototype, and sell their own 3D-printed products, with the company handling the manufacturing, shipping, and customer support.
  • Etsy: While Etsy is primarily known as a marketplace for handmade and vintage items, it also provides tools and resources for users to create and sell their own custom-designed products, such as printable invitations, digital art, and personalized jewelry.
  • Threadless: An online community for artists and designers to submit their designs for T-shirts, which are then voted on by the community. Winning designs are produced and sold, with artists receiving a portion of the proceeds.
  • Nike By You (formerly NIKEiD): Offers customers the ability to customize their own Nike footwear, apparel, and gear, tailoring the design to their personal preferences.


The user designed business model pattern represents a shift towards a more customer-centric and collaborative approach to product development and entrepreneurship. By empowering customers to become creators and entrepreneurs, companies can tap into a vast pool of creativity and innovation, while also fostering deeper engagement and loyalty among their user base. As consumers increasingly seek unique, personalized, and meaningful products, the user designed model is likely to gain further traction across various industries.

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