June 15, 2006

Tom Ford on Fear and Risk... Anxiety

Stephanie handed me this article on her favorite designer, Tom Ford. This, from the May 26, 2006 issue of WWD FRIDAY:

"Many of us are paralysed by fear." said Ford, who gave the summit's opening keynote address on May 10 to a packed crowd. "As we operate in an industry that launches products at a scale that is often vast and worldwide, a certain amount of fear is understandable; the stakes are high. the fear can often result in the creation of bland products that do not challenge or innovate."

And, he said, fear can make companies reticent to reinvent. "It can make us hesitant to take a brand name that is known around the globe and give it a fresh, new spin." he said. "It can lead us to put out unsurprising priducts with unsurprising names promoted in an unsurprising way. It can make us weak and dull and ultimately, fear can make us lose."

To overcome that obstacle, it's critical to find the courage to take a risk, he said. "How do we get back in touch with that risk-taking gene that we all possess, yet that is muffled as business gets bigger and the stakes get higher? We need to trust our intuition. If we're bored while we're designing a product, the consumer will be bored. If we're excited when we create something, we can actually endow that product with an excitement that will translate to a positive reaction from the consumer. Today, more than ever, the customer wants something significant and bold. Half-hearted attempts to please everyone and offend no one will simply come off as second best."

In fact, he said, the greatestt breakthroughs are often things that break with tradition. "We ofen spend our time looking over our shoulders at aour competitors rather than looking forward and forging a new way." he said. "We rely on testing and focus groups and surveys to tell us what the consumer wants when the very thing the consumer wants most is for us to tell them what they want and need. this is our role -to lead and to guide. To do this, we have to saturate ourselves with the market and today's culture and then react with a fresh eye, as if we were our consumer encountering our products for the first time. We need to put the business models and spread sheets to the side, tap into the zeitgeist and be bold in our exprresson of it."

The worlds of design and art can be pretty different but Ford's advice is relevant for today's artist. In art, intrinsic interest leads to extrinsic interest... an absolute value. In design, a decentering occurs as client, materials, and site (architecture) lead curiousity's way. The postmodern turn (the 1960's to this day) was an amazing feat where art sought to derive energy from context by mimicking design (the modern: to seek G-d in materiality; the postmodern: to seek everyday life -context- in conceptuality). Remember: Warhol and his shoes, Christo's illustrations of his big wrap projects are tour de forces in architectural illustration. The list can go on, but I think my point is made.

But perhaps I should sharpen it a bit. It was perhaps a hyper-awareness of context that let a bit of paranoia creep in today's artworld.


(Image Source)

Posted by Dennis at June 15, 2006 7:58 AM

Leave a comment