No consultants

I don’t know if anyone remembers a thread a while back about the Sansa-shaker that turned into a discussion about the place that market-research should have in design. Here is a quote that always stuck in my head from Zippyflounder:

Your asking me to believe that the mockups, prototypes of the I pod were not just a one of many designs that were run past a whole bunch of people for comment.

That was in response to me saying that no focus group would have liked the iPod in 2000. Well, here’s Steve Jobs thoughts on market research taken from an article on cnn money’s website:

"We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple’s retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.

I still stand behind my earlier opinion. Apple ignored the public and won. Maybe Steve Jobs is trying to throw us off, but he appears to agree.

i’ve said this before elsewhere but ill say it again as it is on point.

“People dont know what they like. They like what they know.”

I didn’t make up the quote, so can’t take full credit for it, but it’s something i do firmly believe. I’ve seen more products go bad because marketing, sales, well-intentioned designers, etc. decided to hold a focus group, run a survey, etc. and took the results for wholesale fact, than those products that were just designed with a bit of intuition and common sense.

I’m not saying that market research and speaking with users isn’t valuable, but just that you cant trust everything they say as gospel.

There are so many reasons why focus groups and the like can go wrong…leading questions, useless questions, peer pressure to answer “correctly”… Personally, I feel that a good designer has an inherent amount of intuition/6th sense to problem solving and finding solutions, that often the right thing is just “felt”, more than even empirically determined as a result of any formal process.

I’ve found this countless times in my own experience trend forecasting and designing footwear for a retail launch that may be 12-18months ahead of the initial concept development. I dont know how it is sometimes, but often I just feel a direction/trend starting because i’ve been able to tune my own radar into myself and pay attention to what new I am interested in and have found a way to equally balance that with knowledge of the market, patterns of adoption, etc…


So you are telling me that the mockups, protos, etc were not passed around the table and shown to a sampling of employees…wellllllll must be nice to be rich as god

footwear is fashion, and fashion is a matter of opinion and herd dynamics

…isnt an ipod both those things as well?

footwear is certainly more than fashion, and fashion is also a part of pretty much every type of product design, but ill save that for another discussion less we get off topic so early into the thread.

point being, is that the mentality of “lets test with users and find out what they think” is equally, if not more often used in product design, UI, engineering…to terrible effects. I still stand by my initial quote to sum it all up.

“People dont know what they like. They like what they know.”


A i pod is a UI, a data base, a user service…lots more than fashion.

a shoe can be performance, biomechanics, technology, branding, a status symbol, etc. lots more than fashion too :slight_smile:

and since when was fashion a dirty word that meant that design and strategic development doesnt apply?


Only “sports” shoes have performance, biometrics, and technology by far most are just fashion…and fashion is a whim that changes with the seasons and what you are told to buy. What is old is new in fashion, what is hiddious is cool one day and hiddious another remember combat boots on young women? Swirls, rainbows, clear, open toe, closed, pointed, square or wing tip its all just useless decoration that comes and goes with the wind.

not really true, but we can agree to disagree. certainly though, even fashion isnt as easy/random/thoughtless as you make it out to be. in addition, fashion is likely one of the most important thing in our society today, so i wouldnt trivialize it either.


Apple’s top employees are its “consultants.” They have top talent there.

fashion is one of the most important things in our society? Horshit, what about ethincs, morality, humilty, economy, and entrenpurnership? Fashion, bah, its just aggresive planned obsolence and wastefull as hell.

perhaps i should have used revelant instead of important. fashion at its root concerns itself with social class systems, personal identity and presence, group vs. self psychology, self-esteem, respect, friendships, etc.

more than just “x is the new Y”.

maybe not on the same level as the basics of the maslow’s heirarchy of needs (food, shelter, etc.) but the core issues are up there on the pyramid with esteem and love/belonging.

not to mention, there surely must be a reason why the fashion industry at large is likely right up there with entertainment and in terms of total consumer spending and worth. or is it that everyone else is stupid, except you?

next thing you’ll be telling me that art is likewise useless, wasteful and meaningless…?


its self esteem, self love and belonging to some herd that you aspire to. Why is fashion way up there, insecurity and disposable income followed by boredom IMO. If you want to spend your dispoasable income on it, cool by me, but to say that its important…NFW. People are all ga ga over “green” now, but forget that the biggest part is just good old fashioned over consumption. When I hear “green” and “fashion” in the same sentence I want to puke, how can short term dispoasable non recycleable consumption be “green”. Fashion is a whim, a whimsy, a top down push on what is required to be accepeted into that herd. Fashion is little dogs in hand bags, wonder whats going to happen to said hand bag dog in 5 years. The worst of fashion is the endorsed fashion, where a (insert celeb) gets paid $$$ to allow their celb status to foist yet another piece of fluff on the herd to contuine to belong, or suffer the LIFE THREATING HUMILATION OF NOT BELONGING. I mean after all, if your not in a herd, what are you then? If your not trendy, what are you? It couldnt be that you have a mind of your own…naww, thats too old school. A lot of art can be slugged as useless and wastefull, after all art should inspire thought, provoke emotion, even cause controversy and much of it dont. Most art is just the “artists” ego being presented to others, and thats ok as its not a big scale consumer of resources. A buddy of mine is a very respected artist, and at over 80 yo he still produces his stuff. I asked him why he was still doing it and he said “I want to see what it looks like and people still buy it. I stopped doing real art 40 ears ago because I ran out of things to say”.

for a entertaing and englighing hour watch george carlins “its all bullshit and its bad for you” on HBO, you will see what I mean with clearer eyes.

i dod agree in part with what you are saying and am the first one to condem the herd mentality of short lived fads, trends and celeb BS. amen.

my broader point however w.r.t to society and fashion is that pretty much everything these days IS fashion, so in some way it is important/relevant to us all, esp. as designers.

i dont care if you (or anyone) wears banaleafs and a paper sack, but you surely must recognize that even that is a fashion (non-fashion?) and communicates something about you to others, affects how you are percieved, etc. unless you live in a cave (i dunno, maybe a houseboat is close), and go naked every day, never buying a single consumer product, you are a part of fashion industry (as a consumer), like it or not.


your comments on fashion would make a lot of sense in Communist Red China or North Korea.

I do agree about the recent fad in extoling everything that is said to be “green.” Heck, when politicians use the green rhetoric for votes you know we’re in trouble.

Many product designers were already “green” back in the late '80s, i.e., PET bottle design/use, etc.

The first assumtion is i care what my dress cominicates to socisty, however i understand that for most it is a very important thing. I do not live in a cave, or even a houseboat, however I dress in a manner that is appealing to me, period. If I find something that is produced that I truly like then I buy it, if I cant find what I want/need I make it. Fashion is buying into a group think, of acceptance, of non thought.

No it makes the least sense in commuinst societies, for i am all about THINKING AND DOING as a indevidule and not following some thundering herd. Fashion is what somebody else tells you is good, style is what you know is good. I was at a friends house and he said “man your going to love this, its a stark” not that it was a great functioning, great looking thing but a “stark”…but hey he buys bmw’s for a 30mile bumper to bumper commute (ahh friends they change so much in 20 years). I am for growing a backbone, being a person, thinking, and that includes to tell me go stuff myself that you like being part of the herd.

zippyflounder, it seems that you’re making gross generalizations based on your anectodal experiences. And, may I dare make a conjecture that you have a chip on your shoulders.

If I drive a BMW, an Audi or whatever you’d believe that I am, in fact, following the herd. Yet you have no idea what my thought process was that has led me to such a purchase (i.e., design and technological pedigree, a great deal on a lease, a used one that’s of great value, etc.)

Sure, there are many in societies that follow the herd because they are aspirational, ignorant or not very cerebral (or judgmental) as you appear to be. But, heck what’s wrong with that? Let it be. Not everyone likes to stand out as an INDIVIDUAL - in fact, it’s a no-no in many Asian cultures - though it’s changng slowly.

Your friend who was enthralled with a Stark product probably mentioned his name b/c you’re a designer. IMO, he was hoping that you would appreciate it; that his purchase decision was a “cool” decision

But, no. You indict him for his lack of individuality. Tough crowd.

I think it is the nature of our society to judge one another by the products, trends, styles of dress, and attitudes we harbor and ascribe to. While this is mostly unfortunate, I think it is part of life and as designers we should keep this in mind. I think it is almost impossible to be so neutral that someone somewhere won’t be able to (in their mind) classify you as being one thing or another. Thus, it seems everyone has a “fashion.”

…another thought…I think our economy is part of what creates this as well. Because of the law of comparative advantage, it is not always easy or economical to stay away from all herds. Being in a herd is often times cheaper and more efficient. ie: If I didnt want to buy a BMW, Ford, Chev or any other brand…would it be to my advantage to make my own car? Obviously not. Thus I get in line and do the best I can with what I like. In turn, somebody somewhere is going to judge me for my decision.

Nope somewhere along the line (second trophy wife perhaps) he just turned into a status seeking yutz, not stuff of merrit or even of emotional connection just status. Why does he drive a bimmer for his bumper to bumper, I asked him once, it was because he couldnt swing the lease payments on a S class merc (much higher status dont you know). My chip, its this, so many people just drink the coolaid with big grins. Many of us “pro” not even questioning the flavor of the koolaid, we just keep handing out the cups.