The Japanese have long been associated with well-made, handcrafted, basics design. To dig out their secrets, I've made my way across the Pacific to see how they work first-hand. After spending a month in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, I have a theory and in fact, it has more to do with architecture and urban design than anything else.

Areas of sprawling high-density markets of shops, stalls, and food counters are scattered across the cities I visited. In these places, bars and restaurants are chef-owned holes-in-the-wall sitting no more than a dozen. Shops are highly specialized with a limited selection. Indoors or outdoors, underground or ten floors up, they all bring a distinct kind of quality and variety. This place in Asakusa, Tokyo absolutely floored me:

Marugoto Nippon

Imagine the above photo without shops and counters of any kind and you'll notice that it's simply a series of small square lots divided by columns with a central pathway connecting them. Put the shops back in and you'll notice that they are all separately owned and they offer their own specific category of products. Small shops encourage face-to-face contact, they're instilled with personality, and they make caring and knowledgeable owners. These are the components of a marketplace.

Now, with self-ownership and human contact comes a sense of responsibility. The Japanese feel personally responsible if a customer is presented with poor services and it's their personal duty to offer the best of themselves. They continually self-improve and they see work and the products they build as an essential part of life. My theory is that this mentality has been brought to them by their dense layout of small, self-owned, specialized, and limited series of businesses.

With that being said, we believe we can bring that layout to the Web. The online superstores of today (Amazon, Ebay, and even Etsy) by their giant size and vast selection do cater to most needs but we're drowned in faceless products with no real sense of quality. Therefore, we're building Make Saturdays as a series of small shops with a limited selection of well-made everyday products, a place for designers to offer their best products, to fund new ideas, and to work towards a better sense of responsibility.

Marketplace-4.jpg

Marketplace-3.jpg

Marketplace-1.jpg

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Apr 02, 2016
design thinking

An integral part of Make Saturdays is transparency. Transparency with funding and pricing, with the design and research processes, and with code as well. Evidently, every software project out there makes use of open sourced code from different communities across the Internet. We'd like to contribute as well and every line of code we write will be available on GitHub.

saturdays.core

The saturdays.core project is the code repository that powers makesaturdays.com. Our intentions with this is to build a solid foundation for developping e-commerce businesses efficiently without the constraints of current cloud hosted platforms. We're open to all comments and contributions, as well as bug reports of course.

It's design and development will work towards these basic principles:

  1. Express ideas or introduce concepts in plain words
  2. Be mindful of existing user representations or perceptions
  3. Provide consistent design patterns
  4. Aim to reduce cognitive load
  5. Protect the user's data
  6. Be helpful when things go wrong
  7. Always permit undoing

Technically, saturdays.core runs on a Python 3.5 Flask app with a MongoDB 3.2 database, Grunt for running compilation tasks, Celery for its asynchronous task manager, Elasticsearch for its search capabilities, and Stripe Connect as its payment processor.

Getting Started

To run the saturdays.core source code locally on your own machines, you'll need to install the following:

  1. Node.js: https://nodejs.org/en/
  2. Grunt: http://gruntjs.com/getting-started
  3. Python 3.5: https://www.python.org/downloads/

After cloning this repository run the following commandes in your terminal to install the required dependencies:

  1. cd /path/to/the/repository
  2. npm install
  3. grunt install

Once everything's successfully installed, run the following in seperate terminal windows to power a local server and livereloadable Sass, CoffeeScript and Handlebars compile tasks:

  1. grunt start
  2. grunt compilers

A good place to start is at the saturdays/templates layout files and look into the saturdays/source/scss styles and saturdays/source/coffee scripts folders.

Setting up MongoDB

By default, saturdays.core attempts to connect to local MongoDB database with the uri mongodb://127.0.0.1:27017/database. However we recommend setting up a secure MongoDB deployment with compose.io, and once you have a new uri, you may update your environment variable by running the commands:

  1. source environment/bin/activate
  2. export MONGO_URI='mongodb://127.0.0.1:27017/database'

Don't hesitate to get in touch if there's anything we can do to help: makesaturdays@gmail.com.

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Feb 20, 2016
development

Part of what makes this project unique to us is the willingness of the community of thinkers, doers and users to contribute to the creative process early on.

Together, we’re compiling a list of everyday things that are examples of either good or bad design. With each entry, we’ll want to study everything about the object (from its archetypes to its context in everyday living). Those with the most promise of conceptualization, development, marketing, and feasibility will be made available for the Make Saturdays community to own.

Every day items screenshot

I’ve added my office chair to the list of everyday objects I’ve had trouble with. It’s something that provided me comfort up until I started to notice the wear on the seat itself.

Which everyday things have you had trouble with recently?

Every day items screenshot

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Feb 13, 2016
thinking

Most design escapes notice, emerging from the landscape or entering the world rather quietly, often anonymously. The relative invisibility of design is also a matter of perceptual survival. Most new things are quickly absorbed into our immediate surroundings, forming the background against which we go about our everyday lives. Without this ability to integrate objects into our environment, the world would seem a daunting place — an ever-changing visual cacophony.

Feb 13, 2016
citations

We're excited to get the ball rolling on a new project of ours, Make Saturdays.

Charles – I’ve always been fascinated by nice things. And while my reference to nice has certainly (and thankfully) evolved over the years, I’m faced with the reality that I can no longer afford nice. Ironically, it’s what I strive to do as a designer: *to be a maker of nice things.* Unfortunately, in my practice, I’m asked to simply make things look nice.

The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used. – Sori Yanagi

Today, we buy based on image and the promise of quality; not on our ability to touch, feel, and see things with our own eyes. Unfortunately, the advent of online retailing is shifting mainstream design culture to a more superficial place. Today, we favor the quick fix of image-making over complex problem-solving.

Phillip – Take a moment to think about your day to day, take the time to notice the objects and tools surrounding you, and inevitably you'll notice opportunities for improvement. The goal behind Make Saturdays is to explore the thinking and research processes, as well as the design and making techniques behind building everyday items. Transparently, purposefully, and playfully, we'll work towards better everyday design, towards usable and affordable products, towards a clearer understanding of materials; and we'll fight against planned obsolescence, over-comsuption, and rushed design.

CD – Phil and I created Make Saturdays as a means to explore product design in a new light: to make everyday items, at an affordable price, made locally and responsibly. With the challenges that makers face today, we’ve made it our mission is to start a dialogue around the maker, the making process, and the material.

PM – I studied software engineering instead of design and currently I'm a freelance web developer. But, I'm only happy when I have 4-6 projects running at once and I'm addicted to the flood of dopamine brought on by creative work. Physical product design is a new, scary, but fascinating field for me, and hopefully together, we'll learn a thing or two.

CD – Now, more than ever I understand the pivotal role design plays in our everyday lives. Being able to use this platform to create, to convey new ideas through design, and to ultimately influence others is what I hope to pursue as a designer.

PM – If you're a designer or maker, amateur or veteran, looking to build, fund, promote, research, bring to market an idea of yours please don't hesitate to get in touch at: makesaturdays@gmail.com.

Phil and Charles once again

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Feb 07, 2016
design thinking