Design meritocracies—wherein products are brought to market based on proven interest from potential buyers, rather than just focus groups—seem to be popping up everywhere. There’s Kickstarter, of course. Quirky crowdsources invention ideas, and works with its community to find out what they most want. Fab holds design competitions, and smaller outfits like the We’ve design collective let shoppers pre-order goods, so artists aren’t left with a surplus of things.
New York's Hatch Hub is the latest in the category and it takes the concept to the next level. "I consider it a cross between Quirky, Kickstarter, and Fab. We want those independent elements to shine through," says founder Matthew Sargeant. What's unique, he says, is that Hatch Hub is "design challenge led. As in starting from an idea like, ‘I wish I had a table that was great for small living.’ "
For example, here's how one of Hatch Hub’s yet-to-launch products came about. Sargeant had a female friend who needed a bike rack for her apartment. But since her bike wasn’t designed like a standard men’s bike, with a horizontal cross bar connecting the seat and handlebar, she struggled to find an appropriately sized bike rack. And voila: Hatch has a network of designers, ready for the task.
So far, the company has a grassroots approach to recruiting industrial designers to be in its network. "For better or worse the design community in New York is relatively small, so each time we’d meet someone we’d just ask who’s enthusiastic about participating," Sargeant says.
In addition to specific product requests, the Hatch team will continue to launch design competitions, like their current one, which asks designers to invent a product for the home using sheet metal. The community of "design lovers," as they're called on Hatch's site, are then invited vote on the resultant creations. Sargeant says Hatch will give designers 10% of sales (royalties for designers tend to hover around three to 6%).
Equally important to Sargeant is Hatch’s ability to tell more stories about the designers and the creation process through a soon-to-launch editorial content and video section on their site. "I grew up around a jewelry shop in Australia, and I would go on visits to glass blowers and designers and I knew who made them," he says. "I always thought that was lacking in the retail space."