The Creative Download: Trends in Design & Technology

Reflecting on 2023 and anticipating 2024's Breakthroughs in Design & Technology

The Creative Download: Trends in Design & Technology

Kickstarter’s mission is to bring creative projects to life. While of course, that means things like art, film, and music – here, we also believe that product design, tech and innovation are fundamentally creative acts. In fact, the Design & Technology categories are Kickstarter’s largest, and therefore where we see some of our biggest creative impact on the world. Whether that’s a thoughtfully designed piece of homeware, or a new tech tool that opens up entirely new categories of innovation – Design & Tech creators come to Kickstarter for the funds they need to build a more beautiful, interesting future. 

As the Head of the Design & Technology team, my role is to take a pulse on trends in these communities and champion the creators who are trailblazing them. Myself and my team then guide these creators from the spark of an idea to the launch of a campaign that resonates with backers worldwide. To put it another way: I get to see the future before it’s made real, and it’s a constant, humbling reminder of the endless possibilities that Kickstarter enables. 

Let’s dive into what trends stood out in the category last year, and where I think we’ll see some more exciting developments in 2024. 

2023 By The Numbers

High-Tech Brew 

One of the surprise standouts of 2023 on Kickstarter was the emergence of innovation in beverage culture, particularly coffee. It makes sense: many of us are working from home and may never return to offices again, but still crave that barista-perfect cup. The coffee community has always been uniquely fanatical and exacting (ok I’ll say it – they’re nerds), and now a new wave of entrepreneurs in the industry, like Meticulous and Timemore, are exploring the possibilities of high-tech robotics and sensors to create extremely precise new machines. We’re also seeing premium trends like creamy nitro coffee (or cocktails) come into the home for the first time, through inventions like the Nitropress. We expect to see more of this in the future.

See the trend in action: Meticulous Espresso || Hybrid Pint Glass || Timemore || Nitropress

Fabrication for All

Kickstarter has proudly played a role in the evolution and ongoing future of 3D printing technologies, from the original Formlabs in 2012 – you can spot its distinctive shape in any makerspace – to newer best-in-class entrants like Snapmaker and BambuLabs. It continues to thrill us that technologies like these can help democratize product design – taking prototyping and manufacturing from the factory floor to the comfort of your garage.  

Lately, we’ve been seeing a wider range of tools available to help our backers bring their creative ideas to life, and we’re here for it – after all, you can’t 3D print every project. They span devices to bring real-world objects and sketches into the digital (and then back again), like Revopoint Scanner or Shaper Trace, to advances in previously inaccessible or unaffordable technologies like CNC. 

And to get them started early, we loved InvenTABLE this year: a kid-safe power tool for cutting cardboard, founded by two Masters students in the University of Pennsylvania's engineering department, raising over $1.1m. We can’t wait to see the forts, castles and racecars those backers dream up. 

See the trend in action: Revopoint Scanner || Maslow4 CNC || Rownd CNC Lathe || Shaper Trace

Indoor Environment

Our love for nature has always inspired us to bring a piece of it into our homes but these days we can do much more than adding a few sad potted plants to our living room.In 2023, we saw a rise in creative projects that made use of sensing technologies to mimic or understand the natural world indoors, such as air quality sensors that alert us when the pollutant levels are high, and smart lighting systems that imitate natural light patterns. Mosslab was a project that used the inherent filtering capabilities of moss – along with its striking appearance – to build a new type of humidifier and purifier. As we look for ways to make our indoor environment better, the trend towards indoor nature technologies  will only continue to grow. 

See the trend in action: Mosslab || Tidbyt 2 || Totam Planter || Supermechanical Sensor || Darwin M2 microscope

A Look Into 2024

Looking ahead, the promise of AI integration and the evolution of specific-use robots paint a future where technology seamlessly blends into our lives, enhancing our interactions and simplifying tasks without monopolizing our attention or tethering us to screens. These advancements, along with the continued drive for meaningful, intentional tech, are set to transform our living spaces, our environmental consciousness, and our personal well-being. Let’s dive into the D&T trends showing up in our crystal ball for 2024.

AI in Everything 

At CES this year, we saw AI-powered hardware devices proliferate – an astonishing uptick from last year, even. AI's influence is powerful, but can appear subtle: a back-end transformation allowing devices to learn, adapt, and interact with their environment and the user in more seamless, meaningful ways. In short, it makes devices just work better. From gadgets that can record, transcribe and execute on action items from your phone calls (like Plaud or HiDock)  to self-adjusting and energy-efficient home systems – I think we’ll see more examples of AI being integrated, in one form or another, into the most practical and functional hardware products launching on Kickstarter in 2024.

But where's the poetry in all this? Some of our favourite Kickstarter projects explore emerging technologies in surprising, delightful ways and Matt Webb's Poem/1: the AI Poetry Clock, now live, does just that. In a unique twist on timekeeping, it uses ChatGPT to generate short and quirky two-line rhyming poems for every minute of the day – showing us the creative side of AI. 

Useful, specific robots 

A vision of robots in the home, a staple of science fiction, is steadily becoming a reality. However, these aren't the multifunctional humanoid servants of our imaginations. Today's home robots are increasingly specialized, designed to perform specific single tasks with efficiency and precision. For instance, lawn-mowing robots – a hugely popular category on Kickstarter last year – autonomously navigate gardens to keep grass trimmed and healthy. I wonder what other home tasks will be automated out this year: look to things that are boring, messy or dangerous as the most likely candidates for robot automation.

But I'm also interested in the social side of robotics – how we live alongside these machines, if not as companions then at least friendly roommates. Samsung's Baille, announced earlier this month, is a rolling smart home hub designed to navigate around the home, performing various tasks and managing connected home appliances (and it looks a lot like Enabot's Ebo, released on Kickstarter last year.) But Loona by KeyiTech is the social robot that I think offers the best glimpse of the potential and future of social robots –  while Loona doesn't "do" much of anything, its natural gestures, movements and personality are so compelling, it might more easily snag an invite into our homes. 

Intentional screen time 

Each of these trends – robotics, AI – has the potential to connect us more deeply with technology while moving us away from addictive screens. One of the recent buzzy tech stories was that of Rabbit AI, "an AI-powered gadget that can use your apps for you"  by controlling your music, ordering you a car, buying your groceries, sending your messages, and more, all through a single interface with voice control. It's clear by the attention this product received that interacting with apps and screens has become such a chore, and a distraction, that we’re clamouring for a rethink. 

One device that is doing this on Kickstarter is the mui Board Gen 2 – a smart home controller that uses natural materials (wood) and gesture control to create a piece of "calm technology" for your home. It's the opposite of a screen, and points a vision to the future. With so much happening in the world, we hope there will be a trend of calm and intentional technologies – or at least, one less screen to look at.  

Closing Thoughts

As 2024 opens up in front of us – Kickstarter’s 15th anniversary year – I’m reminded that one of the most exciting things about Kickstarter, even after all this time, is that we've changed what kind of products get made, who gets to make them, and at what stage an idea becomes public. While the old model meant products were made in the R&D labs of well-funded companies, or that inventions had to be licensed to big manufacturers – on Kickstarter, independent creators can build and release things on their own, sharing their early vision for backers to follow along with as their ideas are made real. As a result, you get this incredible overview of what’s on people’s minds: what products address this very moment, and what backers are responding to. 

I’m excited to see these trends unfold on Kickstarter. The Design & Technology category is not just a showcase of innovation but a community of forward-thinkers and problem-solvers who are passionate about bringing products to life. Together, we’re not just building gadgets; we’re shaping the future of how we live, work, and play. Here's to another year of invention. 

With tens of thousands of creative projects launched on Kickstarter every year, this platform is a thermometer for the trends bubbling up across the creative community. Kickstarter's Creative Download is an editorial series where our category experts share the trends they saw from the previous year and give us a peek at what they think is on the horizon.