I just think that the thing people miss sometimes is that your average consumer will like/want what they’re given. Apple thinks on their own… most others try to develop formulas and patterns to succeed based on someone elses thinking and proven success.
It’s like when I was in school and we had to write a report about something we read. I would try to come up with a new point of view…look at it in a way that I think nobody has previously and I’d do research and see that my view isn’t out there (published, that I can find at least). Then I would get marks off because I didn’t have a long bibliography of other authors that back up my view / have similar views. Uhh, that’s the point, I’m trying to say something nobody else has, if I’m doing that successfully I won’t have a long list of others with the same view. I’m trying to say something innovative, not innovatively regurgitate something some other “more important person” else has already said…
I think it’s like that in design sometimes. People say they want something new and innovative, but then give you parameters that essentially say they want it to be just like their competitors. And if you present something that is truly new and would force everyone in the chain to break preconceptions and innovate on their end from engineering to marketing…they say it’s too art school flaky, blue sky, can’t be done, too risky, and then you’re viewed as incompetent for presenting an idea like that. But then a company like apple goes ahead and does it because they know it’s good, makes millions, and then people call them genius…why couldn’t our squad do that?!?
If you’re in touch with your consumer, you can think like them and give them what they want. You create the trends and become a trendsetter. And actually you can tell them what they want and if you give it to them they will eat. Look at music vids. Let Busta wear some specific shoe and say he drinks some kind of liquor and the next week you’ll have hundreds of thousands of urbanites ordering that drink they can’t spell and looking for the shoes. No extraordinary research campaign, just put it in front of their faces, tell them it’s the new way to go and they’ll bite…then they’ll keep biting if it turns out it really is good…if not then you just had a fad/one hit wonder, etc… You just have to have confidence in what you think is good and the iron nads to go ahead with it (and people with the money that actually trust your skills and decision making ability doesn’t hurt either).
The industry sometimes tries to make things a little too “paint by numbers” predictable process/deliverables and strip designers of some of the unique insights they can really bring to the table. This turns the majority of us into the “artistic hands (no brains though)” of some other person/group that makes the real decisions and does the real thinking. They tell us what to do, how to do it, and have the final say of what’s “appropriate”. Then our end turns into presentation contests and the best presented concepts get produced, if the guy likes purple, it’ll get changed last minute to be purple.
I’ve seen some of the original sketches for the ipod and it wouldn’t make it on the wall for consideration at most places, it would need “more exploration/evolution… flesh it out, needs more etc…” Just imagine at a consultancy if the new project was to come up with a new breakthrough music player to turn the clients company around and your first initial #2 pencil wavy, bad perspective brainstorm sketch was a roundtangle with a screen and then a big button underneath that you said just does everything else you need it to. At most places it wouldn’t make it past that brainstorm and you probably wouldn’t be looked at very well. The idea that would eventually go through would have the rubberized bottom with the cool sharp corner that fades to nothing, overmold here+there, etc…that looks good as a rendering…that works just like the current top of the line plus or minus a few features to make it “innovative”. That initial idea of the rectangle with the one super button to do everything you need it to would most likely not make it to the phase where you consider deciding how it’s going to do what you say it can do.
Sorry for the ramble, I just know that there are good, potentially groundbreaking ideas not given consideration in-house and not even make it to the client because the first idea sketch wasn’t of something that was necessarily “stunning” to look at in rough sketch pencil form. Or worse was too magical like some rounded rectangle that’s all touch and takes the place of all of your gadgets you carry with you without even the one super button that does everything like that last a-hole we fired tried to pin to the wall, get real! People have to trust their designers unique insights and not filter it through the “me too” machine. Too much design by committee and design by numbers stuff going on that keeps companies from being able to create the breakthrough types of products that apple seems to be able to do with little trouble at all nowadays.