Here at Embodee, we’re not shy about evangelizing the benefits of mass customization and co-creation in the manufacture and sale of products, especially apparel. Yes, our fervor is self-serving: Embodee’s best-of-breed 3D visualization technology enhances the process. But we’re also naturally curious about the many dynamics of this post-Industrial Age shift in the way things are bought then made (not made then bought, as in the era of mass production). Our latest obsession is touchy-feely. It’s the emotional side of purchasing something you design to meet your individual functional needs and aesthetic desires.

Academics have explored in-depth the psychology underlying what some labeled the “I Designed It Myself” Effect. The consensus: your sense of ownership is stronger if you configured a product. You didn’t merely buy it, you accomplished something creative. And if you see your design as a self-expression of your public identity, the deeper your connection to the product and the brand that made it. These factors add up to greater value for buyer and seller.

Consider our own unscientific, anecdotal example. One of us recently decided to buy an iPad cover. Zazzle offered an array of set designs, but a prominent "Create your own!” button was hard to ignore. It gave him the option of creating a unique, personalized cover. All it took was uploading and positioning a photograph. The photo he chose had long appealed to him in ways he couldn’t fully articulate. He liked the idea of publicly associating himself with the image, an image likely never to grace any of the other 100-million-plus iPads in the world.

Now picture hordes of consumers designing then buying their individual expressions of form, function, and self in athletic wear, other apparel, watches, furniture, automobiles, and so forth. A psychological characteristic emerges. Ownership becomes more than “mine.” It becomes “me.”