Conceptualize Phase. The conceptualize phase is dedicated to experimenting, generating, and evaluating ideas for a final artifact. Various creativity and research tools were used to frame speculative questions, ideate, sketch, and prototype a final concept.

"Speculative design proposals are essentially tools for questioning... they are intended to act like a mirror reflecting the role a specific technology plays or may play in each of our lives, instigating contemplation and discussion.”
– (

The combined use of speculative questions and collage analysis acted as catalysts for creative concepts, playing a pivotal role in guiding the formation of a final prototype.

Spatial Collage 2: Maker Mall, 2023. Mary Kahle.
What does a ( ____ ) look like?

Decentralized maker network

The ‘Maker Mall’ collage was a turning point in the direction of the final proposal. Makerspaces each exist within their own operational ecosystem and they each have their own potential for positive impacts within their communities. 

Because it is important for these spaces to remain diverse and there is no one size-fits-all business model, instilling smaller ‘seeds of though’ rooted in equitable and sustainable practices at the grassroots level could have a greater impact on the whole ecosystem.

How might we...

Insights from the analysis and synthesis phase were used to generate a number of ‘how might we...’ statements. These statements helped me better understand how and where I might address barriers to makerspace development. 

How might we... cultivate or "plant the seeds" of makerspace potential from the outset?

How might we... more intentionally grow the maker movement, rooted in equitable practices that address systemic issues?

How might we... design makerspaces to better ensure inclusive cultures, accessible learning, and entrepreneurial growth within their communities?

Example ‘how might we’ statments.

Design Typologies and Lenses

Typologies in this research serve as structured classifications or categorizations that aid in organizing and understanding different forms, structures, or models within a given context.

Participatory Design Tools.
Integrate participatory design tools to encourage collaborative decision-making and active engagement, tailored to makerspace communities..

Boundary Objects.
Create prototypes of boundary objects that facilitate effective communication and consensus-building.

Speculative Design Innovations.
Explore speculative design or design futures methods and activities to prototype out-of-the-box but plausible concepts for makerspace innovations.

Lenses in this research represent specific perspectives or frameworks through which researchers view and analyze a subject or problem.

Social Impact and Equity. Assess the product or initiative's impact on society, prioritizing equity and accessibility.

Broad Accessibility. Ensure the tool is accessible to wide audiences, both in terms of content and activities.
  • Accessible Language and Terminology
  • Inclusive Physical Interaction
  • Inclusive Learning Opportunities

Community Engagement. Emphasize the use of tools and methods to collect and communicate metrics for evaluating community engagement within the makerspace (i.e. qualitative data gathering and visualization).

Ecosystem Analysis.Utilize a mapping for ecosystems analysis to understand the broader impact and interconnectedness of the makerspace within its community.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Assess the degree of interdisciplinary collaboration, examining how different disciplines contribute to and benefit from the makerspace.

Concept Refinement

The research lenses and typologies were applied to thumbnail sketch concepts for tools, environments, or services based on makerspace needs. I also used a brainwriting activity to flush out and synthesize different threads of research. I then took these sticky notes and plot them on two different matrices.

Because of the nature of makerspaces and maker culture, it was important that this research result in a tangible outcome. I assessed various ideas using an ‘implementation v. cost’ and ‘importance v. difficulty’ matrix and settled on two accessible and impactful options.

Concepts chosen:
1. A creativity/ ideation card deck

2. Co-design methods or workshops

The criteria applied to the research (derived from the analysis and synthesis phases) guided the creation of the card deck/toolkit, ensuring it addressed the identified needs of makerspaces and incorporated relevant research methods for the maker community to utilize.

I asked ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’, and further identified tools, methods, and values to embed into the ideation card deck.

Precedent Work Review

I researched precedent projects and identified pros and cons that might inform the development of my prototype. I looked to various assets like workshops, playbooks, ideation card decks, and equity frameworks. 

Business development playbooks
serve as strategic roadmaps for advancing initiatives. These guides provide systematic approaches tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities within the makerspace context, covering aspects of sustainable development, financial viability, and community impact.

Facilitation tools are essential resources designed to foster collaboration. These tools encompass methodologies and techniques that enhance communication, idea generation, and decision-making, with a focus on promoting inclusivity, creativity, and participatory engagement among diverse stakeholders.

Ideation card decks are tangible tools crafted to stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving. Featuring prompts, concepts, or elements related to makerspace development, these decks encourage collaborative brainstorming and ideation among community members, ensuring a diverse range of perspectives shapes the decision-making process

Makerspace Co-Design Tool, Ideation Card Deck

In my research, I've been particularly drawn to exploring systems-level and strategic approaches for providing effective tools in makerspace development. This interest aligns with the growing recognition of the need for inclusive and thoughtful solutions in this dynamic field. The concept of "seeding the ecosystem" has guided my focus, leading to the development of an ideation card deck/toolkit. I firmly believe that the "how" of makerspace development should emerge from the communities themselves. Therefore, offering tools that maximize collaboration among stakeholders becomes a fundamental need.

The emphasis on co-design and the provision of "seeds of thought" understands that addressing systemic challenges requires intentional, radical, and collective efforts. I recognize that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to the complex developmental issues faced by makerspaces. Through my research, I've come to see makerspaces as vital community assets, uniquely serving the needs of the local residents.

The ideation card deck/tool aims to contribute to sustaining the organic development of these spaces, ensuring they continue making a positive impact with their communities. I call this the ‘Cards for the Collective’ Card Deck/Toolkit.

How might we cultivate or "plant the seeds" of makerspace potential from the outset?

This prototype serves as a boundary object—a tool fostering collaboration across disciplines and communities (Star and Griesemer, 1989). The deck is designed to empower small-scale maker communities, providing co-creation, ideation, and assessment tools for early-stage development, fostering equitable, sustainable, and accessible outcomes in both programmatic and organizational aspects.

The versatile ideation card deck can be brought into a framework or method to shape to the makerspace community’s particular goals, such as:

Inventory and assess makerspace resources, operations, programs.

Ideate on future/speculative state of makerspace functions.

Work though a “How might we” statement.

Create opportunities for shared dialogue within the makerspace community.

I established five categories for the card deck, providing flexibility for various approaches. Each category is conceptually aligned with the metaphor of growth and "seeding the ecosystem," contributing to the versatile use of the deck. 

Root cards: challenges and opportunities These are larger systemic and socio-cultural phenomena that can pose challenges but are also opportunities for greater social, educational, and environmental impact. 

Wild cards: speculation/innovation Based on speculative questions developed for the collages, used to prompt more conceptual future ideas. 

Cultivate cards: stakeholders, material, place, timeframe, discipline/function These cards are used to expand upon the other deck categories. 

Ground cards: methods This deck includes methods, frameworks, and approaches centered around design, research, business, marketing, operations, education, and community engagement. 

Propogate cards: blank cards For users to write their own terms, questions, or prompts. 

In the next phase, I further refined a physical and digital prototype of cards. I tested the card use with various users, in conjunction with a digital and in-person workshop, to refine the card deck categories and the 'rules' or approaches of use.

© Mary Kahle, 2024