Shedding the Past

IDSA Member's Firm Reimagines the Shared Economy

A new Fast Company article features former International Design Excellence Award winner Mark Promell, IDSA, partner and design director at Pensa, weighing in on the shared economy. Not the ride sharing kind—rather, sharing products that may not be used everyday, from vaccums to lawn mowers. Pensa’s “Share Shed” concept is paired with a mobile app. Products could be stored in the shed for checkout and checkin among neighbors through the app. Or in a large apartment building, a locked space could double as a share shed.

A startup called Neighborrow tried product sharing in 2006 and several others followed, but Co.Design reports almost all failed. “It turned out people didn’t really want to borrow anything,” Neighborrow co-founder Adam Berk said. "They didn’t mind buying things and just letting them sit unused.”

“The problem with sharing is that there are people involved,"  explains Prommel. "As soon as you start getting into other people’s emotional needs, their schedules, someone not wanting to be inconvenienced—you need to be willing to take a big leap and have a really strong desire to want to share something in order to overcome those barriers and turn this into a viable thing.”

Prommel believes the key to making product sharing work is adding a little bit of infrastructure. “Share Shed” acts as a centralized place to check products in and out with an app, circumventing the problem of trying to meet with an actual person and ensuring that products are close enough that it isn’t a hassle to pick them up.

Looking ahead, as designers do, as self-driving cars become standard, the shed might also become mobile, delivering an item on command. Stay tuned.