Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing

Mass Customization feature in Business Week

Business Week’s SmallBiz section carries a feature on five small businesses that have implemented mass customization. The five are American Art Resources, Chip-N-Dough, Zyrra, Choiceshirts, and Name Maker.

The most interesting general trend from the article is that several of the interviewees refer to the fact that they had to develop proprietary technologies themselves to facilitate their move into mass customization. In some cases this was inevitable because they were effectively creating a new business niche. But it also suggests that ingenuity with manufacturing technologies plays a significant role in the establishment of mass customization among existing enterprises.

Rather than take quotes from the article, I’d suggest that it is better to read it in its entirety, which you can do here.

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4 Responses to “Mass Customization feature in Business Week”

  1. Derek Elley Says:

    I agree, plenty of ingenuity is required. I guess this is why Zazzle has moved from basic “mass personalization” to “mass customization” with its recent purchase.

    But I wonder what is after this – what about “mass individualization”. The ingenuity required to enable this is another step altogether. Instead of sticking a picture of your dog to an existing product like a mug (Zazzle personalization) or choosing options to build up an existing product like a pc (Dell customization) – what about co-creation happening at the product design file level? THIS is a bit more of a challenge.

  2. Donal Reddington Says:

    Yes, it is! A few projects are currently underway that have moved the customization process back through to the early stages of the product lifecycle. These have caught the current wave of enthusiasm for ‘Crowdsourcing’, although they are more correctly defined as co-creation. Labelling them as crowdsourcing seems to generate more interest among the media and also among potential participants.

    If you haven’t done so already, a read of the post ‘One Word for Many Trends’ from November 2006 might be of interest – it sets out how I expect the co-creation / outside innovation trend to develop.

  3. Derek Elley Says:


    Yes I read that last year – excellent! I esplly liked the full diagram you drew. In true ‘Internet time’ there are now a few extras to add to it – but as you say mass individualization is where it’s at and using smart tools to enable ‘everyone’ to participate in product creation from the ground up is inspiring.

  4. Chris Norman Says:

    I’ve been pitching the idea of mass customization to venture capitalists for two years and none of them has taken the bait. I am amazed that everyone here knows that softwae is the future of making mass customization work. You need tools to do it. Tools that don’t exist yet. Anybody want to tell me what VC firm is really into mass customization? email me at

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