Fanformed: Crowd Designing Mountain Bike Gear

How often have you thought to yourself, “this hydration pack (or sunglasses, shoes, etc.) is excellent, but there’s this one feature that would make it better…”? In today’s age of technology and social media, we are used to talking and having someone hear us. Some companies leverage their social media outlets and listen to what their consumers want, and deliver it. But why not provide some way for the masses to have hands-on control of how their products are designed?

Fanformed thinks consumers should have that hands-on access when it comes to designing the products they love–and seeks to give it to them. Fanformed’s stated mission is “to help expert product users create product design breakthroughs.” They go on to say, “As a product fan, you know best how a product should work, what it should do, and what it should look like.”

A couple of weeks ago I received an email asking if I would be interested in being an “expert” for Fanformed as they seek to design a mountain biking hydration pack. Fanformed is a brand-new company (the mountain biking hydration pack is one of the very first products they are producing), so at first I was a little sketched out by this random email from China. However, I did some digging and came across a video of the Fanformed founders, David Tan and Chris Baker, presenting information about their company idea at a business convention. You can check out the video here:

Needless to say, after doing some research and chatting with David on the phone, I was convinced these guys are for real… and that they might be onto something cool.

The hydration pack design process is still in the very early stages, but here’s how they envision the process working:

  1. First, the panel of experts will confer and determine what the ideal use case for the hydration pack is. As you can probably tell from all the reviews published here on Singletracks, there’s a hydration pack for just about every possible application. This stage is used to determine exactly what the experts think the intended application should be. Also, during this time the experts are supposed to test product samples from the factories.
  2. The experts add their specific feature ideas to the Fanformed website.
  3. The website opens up to the general public. Then, anyone who’s a mountain biker or is interested in hydration packs can discuss certain features and vote on which ones are most important for the pack, and which are not.
  4. Fourth, the final design is verified with the factory. A couple of samples will be produced and tested by select experts to make sure the concept as it was laid out online works in real life.
  5. Finally, the pack is ready to be sold! Sales for the hydration pack will work sort of like Kickstarter: anyone interested in the pack will have to place a pre-order (at sweet, factory-direct pricing), and if the pre-orders reaches a certain threshold in a given time frame, the pack will be produced and shipped to those who placed pre-orders. If pre-orders don’t reach the necessary threshold, the pack will go back to the drawing board to be reevaluated, modified, and rereleased to the public.
Factory sample pack that I am testing.

After hearing Fanformed’s vision for how the process will work and reading through some of the literature, I have to say that it sounds like a pretty sweet concept! However, since this method is, as of now, completely unproven, I’m interested to see how it will play out in real life.

As of this week, step one of the above process is complete. Coming to a general consensus on a use case was rather difficult and required a lot of back-and-forth discussion, but the group finally settled on a use case we think will appeal to a broad audience and set this pack apart from lots of other packs out there on the market:

“All-day mountain bike hydration pack optimized for quick access to essential gear”

Now, it’s time for us to take the discussion to the Fanformed website, talk about specific features we want, and to release our ideas to the public to discuss and vote on.

Stay tuned for more information as this project gets underway!

Your Turn: What do you think about the crowd design concept? Are you interested in having a hand in designing a hydration pack?