In Search of Significant Objects : The Value of Stories

Posted by in What's Hot

We know your designs are awesome, we know 3D printing is mind blowing, we know that it takes amazing photographs to capture your awesomely mind blowing 3D printed designs but we also need descriptions to give your objects context.

Significant Objects, is a literary and anthropological experiment whose
first two phases ran from July 2009 through October 2010, demonstrated
that the effect of narrative on any given objects subjective value can
be measured objectively.

Their basic idea was to take a range of thrift store items whose value was around $1.25 each, then write a story around the object and auction it on ebay with the story as the descriptor.  The hypothesis was “Narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones” and would thereby increase the value of the object. 

In the end they sold $128.74 worth of thrift-store junk for $3,612.51

Now lets take this same theory and apply it to your mind blowingly awesome 3D printed designs, if you were to write an interesting story around your design to capture the imagination, be it artistic like the Strandbeest, informative like the Bugaboo repair parts, or fantastical homage to a Chicken Nugget by a Depressed Unicorn, how would the value increase?

Look at your product page as a way to tell your product story, if you were to explain it to your grandmother what would you say? If you were to explain it to a friend at a bar? If you were going to pitch it to a retailer what would you say?  

The description is your opportunity to tell those stories. 


  1. Glenn

    Pretty freakin’ mind blowing. I just read the Alien Toy story – wow! Great concept and fantastic examples of how the narrative can REALLY help sell…. I’m going to have to take a long, hard look at my Blog now…

    1. Duann

      Be sure to put a link into this blog comment when you are done so we can read too..

    2. Glenn

      I would put a link in the Homepage field except that this is another Bug in the Shapeways site… whenever I put my WordPress URL into that field I get rejected as Spam…. I have notifed Shapeways by email…

  2. Charlotte

    Oh awesome. I knew stories could sell stuff (movie merchandise, being a huge example), but I didn’t realise just how effective a simple short story could be!

  3. duann

    ah, thanks for letting me know this is happening for you as well.

    This is flagged.


  4. Bo

    Great post, thank you, guess in the end we are still analogue beings wanting to have a relationship to the devices we purchase.

    I’m about to upload 3 designs for iPad accessories, and will be sure to create a narrative for them. (have been prototyping on my z650, but leave the resale part for the awesome shapeways guys)

  5. Glenn

    Of course it helps to have William Gibson write the short story for you and to make sure the proceeds go to charity… and to promote like crazy the whole project. This is somewhat more effective than having Joe Nobody write a story to sell his own object for his own financial gain :)

    I’m currently working on a story for one of my own items so we’ll see how well this pans out for this Joe Nobody.

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