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Small is Special: 10 Ways Your Dollar Can Foster Future Design

Today’s pioneers of design and culture are supported by small business, and the way you shop can be an investment in their future.  To celebrate this, a new holiday shopping movement is coming together for a single day each year in honor of small business.  Small Business Saturday is a new movement in consumer activism, a way for you to use your dollar to vote for values which mean something to you.  From architecture to technology, fashion to food, the way you spend your money in this busy retail season can actually help foster tomorrow’s creators.  How can your holiday shopping influence a well-designed world?  We’ve outlined 10 ways that smart spending on small business can be an investment in a better planet.  Read on to find out why…

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Help’s Drive Tomorrow’s Architecture

It’s often true– the larger the retailer, the more standardized its architecture must be for familiarity to its customers.  For small business, the opposite can be explored.  Small businesses can differentiate themselves by pushing the architectural envelope, by capturing the eyes of their customers and earning their business.  When you shop at small businesses who embrace this tactic, you are effectively helping to nurture the future of retail architecture.  Take the German furniture manufacturer Vitra, and compare it to the retail behemoth that is Ikea.  Ikea uses familiar designs and color schemes to create a uniform image in the eyes of their shoppers, whereas Vitra works with the world’s leading architects to differentiate their business and connect with wide-eyed customers.  Frank Gehry, Herzod & de Mueron (shown above), Zaha Hadid and Marcio Kogan have all created retail spaces for Vitra, creating works of architecture that push the envelope into the future.  Vitra may be larger than most small businesses, but your consumer dollar helps a business like theirs engage the greatest minds of the world architecture community.

Small Business Architecture Gallery

Small Business Helps Interior Designers Innovate

Sure, you could buy a skateboard, a helmet and accessories for your nephew from Walmart, or you could pay a premium and shop small.  If you’re lucky enough to be in Milan, Italy, shopping at the Bastard Store and Bowl will not only get you a fresh deck and a custom t-shirt, but a chance to take a spin on their indoor skating bowl located above the shop.  Bastard Brand reached out to studiometrico to rehab this old Italian movie theater and build the store of their dreams.  It features a retail store below, an indoor skate park above and an office above that, overlooking both sections below.  This is the kind of thing you won’t see at your local Target or Walmart, because Bastard needed to make an impression, to do something special to lift their brand.  So the customers that built the business led its owners to hire studiometrico to build the dream office of any skate boarder.  When you shop small, it allows for this type of innovation to be explored.  [be sure to check out our feature on office design excellence, which also included the Bastard Store]

Bastard Store Gallery

Small Businesses are the Inventors of Tomorrow

Is it any surprise that the recent revolution of the electric car was not initiated by the gas-guzzling Big Three?  Respect is due to GM and others for making waves, especially with the newly named Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Volt.  But it wasn’t a Detroit automaker who paved the path of today’s electric car, it was Elon Musk, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning and their EV startup Tesla Motors.  Tesla may no longer be a small business, and it’s not likely that you’ll be buying your loved one a pricey Tesla Roadster for the holidays.  But Tesla achieved market successes thanks to the early adopters, those with a green spirit and a healthy wallet that helped this business go from dream to reality.  Instead of opting for a name brand sports car, these early adopters help Tesla re-invent the image of the electric car into something that people wanted to drive– and a revolution resulted.

Tesla Model S Gallery

Small Business Keeps Graphic Designers at Work

Instead of picking up a bottle of Captain Morgan, you could go premium now and then for an adventurous taste that also helps foster the future of graphic design.  The Kraken Rum is a black spiced rum with one of the today’s most beautiful bottle designs, courtesy of the British design firm Stranger and Stranger.  Captain Morgan is owned by the multi-national beverage conglomerate Diageo,  whereas Kraken is distributed by a new company with under 100 employees.  They used a fresh graphic design approach that differentiated their product in a visual sense, and your thirsty dollar is effectively a vote for both the design and the brand’s focus on indie designers.  Love the packaging?  See more from our friends over at NotCot.

Kraken Rum Gallery

Small Business is on the Forefront of Green Design

GreenDepot is a retailer of green products and building materials for the sustainably-minded consumer.  The launch of their flagship retail store in Manhattan is a great achievement not only for GreenDepot, but for the state of New York as a whole.  GreenDepot was New York State’s first LEED Platinum certified retailer, thanks to the careful rehab of its Bowery street store, efficient energy systems and the sale of sustainable products.  The storefront was once NYC’s first YMCA, and the floor upon which its wares are shelved was a basketball court in the earlier setting.  Everything you see in the store is green-minded, from the interior design to the products its customers purchase.  This is the work of small business in action, and the customers of GreenDepot’s website and other retail outlets allowed this great achievement to happen.  This is how your small business dollar can help lead the front of green design. [images by PSFK's Dave Pinter]

GreenDepot NYC Gallery

Small Business Fosters Future Fashion Design

The fashion industry could be considered the king of small business, as most every new label is the work of a handful of creative designers and not the work of multi-national conglomerates.  Chicago’s ThreadLess.com is a prime example, as a t-shirt design company that started with two friends and grew to encompass a large operation that represents thousands of aspiring fashion designers.  Designers submit their designs and the community votes on them, then ThreadLess prints the very best.  To shop ThreadLess is to support both small business and the next generation of fashion designers– a much better use of your money than shopping at a massive chain for your tees.

ThreadLess Gallery

Small Business Keeps Industrial Designers Creating

Industrial designers are those who give shape to items both rare and common, from your toothbrush to your CAT Scan machine and nearly everything in between.  Brands like Target employ more than 50 full-time industrial designers to help create the physical form of new products sold by the retail giant.  While their work is respected, there are countless future inventors working as freelance or boutique industrial designers who can focus on their own ideas while working on others for clients.  The next Yves Behar, Philippe Starck and others are working toward future masterpieces while consulting for the small brands that give them the luxury of income to supplement their dreams.  Great things can happen in large corporations, especially at Apple, but the vast number of our industrial design revolutions happen in the minds of designers who need small business client work to sustain their lifestyle.  When you shop local and shop small business, many of the products you buy support those who work tirelessly to invent the next best thing in design.

Industrial Design Gallery

Small Business Leads the Fresh Food Revolution

If you’ve ever maintained your own vegetable garden, you know just how much better your own produce can taste than what you can buy at the supermarket.  This level of taste and quality has helped drive the organic food industry, where specialty meats, artisan cheeses and organic vegetables are the hottest trends in the art of eating.  In TheCoolist’s home state of Florida, a locally grown avocado can yield an amazing new kind of taste instead of a product that has been doused in chemicals and shipped hundreds of miles.  Your artificially-colored cheddar cheese is nothing compared to an aged cheddar from the Amana Colonies in Iowa.  Your Thanksgiving turkey from a factory farm is faint in flavor compared to one raised locally, consciously and in a way nature intended.  These are the products of small business, and your consumer dollar helps these artisans grow their businesses to bring real, wholesome and healthy food to a world that nature forgot.

Fresh Food Gallery

Small Business Encourages Growth in Software Design

Planning on buying a loved one a piece of software for the holidays?  Chances are, it’s an app for their iPhone or Android mobile device or a game for their entertainment console.  The mobile app world has led to a new revolution in entrepreneurship, where single developers or mom-and-pop groups are creating the next must-have app for your mobile device.  Purchasing these apps leads to even more innovation, as your app-buying dollar is one step closer to the next big thing on the mobile web.  For video games, titles like Braid and Scribblenauts are some of the more revolutionary games released in the last few years, both of which are the product of small developers.  Buying these items pushes innovation by rewarding those who are not constrained by corporate structures and in-the-box thinking.  It’s a smart way to foster the next level of software design.

Software Development Gallery

Small Business Can Make Travel More Beautiful

A Carnival cruise or a Marriott hotel stay helps perpetuate a standard that is not kind to the world of design.  Meanwhile, a slew of design hotels, boutique hot spots and up-and-coming travel locations are hungry for your dollar.  If you can afford it, a slight upgrade in nightly cost can yield an amazing experience that far outweighs the dollar spent– and helps to fund a more personalized, design-friendly locale for your trips of the future.  Sometimes, smaller, upscale hotels can beat the prices of the name brands in a big city.  The point is to shop around, to compare prices between the big brand hotels and the smaller boutiques who can get you a room for a slight upgrade in price.  The expense could be well worth it if you do your homework, as designer hotels provide a level of service and style that may be impossible to achieve in the rooms of a big brand resort.  Your business helps push the boutique industry further, bringing down prices and allowing new brands to hire local talent to design the hotels of the future.

Indie Travel Gallery

With the holiday shopping season about to get crazy, we hope that you’ll spend your dollars wisely in this tough economy.  The way you spend your money can have a great impact on the culture in which we live.  Your dollar is a vote, and it’s time to vote carefully.  The world of design depends on how you shop, so it’s important to share your shopping in a way that gives back to those who influence the best of world culture.

[main image: the light graffiti spray can, invented by Aïssa Logerot]

Thanks to American Express for sponsoring our coverage of why shopping with small businesses matters.  American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27.  They’re offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for “Likes” of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook.  Join the celebration by clicking the “Like” button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.

Small Business Saturday