As many of you probably already know, Hollywood movies these days are often reviewed by focus groups before they reach the theatres. Directors create 2 or 3 possible endings, and focus groups hash out which is “best.” Do they fall in love? Does the villian explode or just get kicked off the island? Some serious changes can happen late in the process.
So what do people think? Do focus groups belong in the realm of creative endeavor? Are they a great example of customer feedback resulting in an improved product, or simply an example of groupthink creating a mediocre one?
I am certain that if Hamlet were being written today, that a focus group would give us a significantly different ending. Ophelia would somehow survive, and vile Claudius would probably be dispelled in a cinematic fireball. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern would be replaced by a pair of bumbling computer generated Gungans, and Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be” would become “To wear Nike? or To wear Adidas?” rapped over a P. Diddy sound track — somehow Ben Affleck would be involved.
Anyway, what is going wrong here? Are these just poorly run focus groups, or is there a deeper problem? Movie Studios love this approach because they feel as if they are maximizing profits and minimizing risks - something that we’d all love to do in the software (or any product) industry.
But wait. Is that what we really want to do? I think a major factor in focus group failure is that creative work often thrives on risk. The removal of risk saps the transformative qualities of a work, and leaves it with an unappealing “sameness”. Everywhere we look we see carbon copies of successful bands, movies, or products. And while they might nab a bit of market share, they rarely inspire.
Meri has already pointed this out in the comments section before I could get around to posting about it. Yes, Ivan is wearing an OK/Cancel T-shirt. We’ve had some inquiries about making one and this is an idea for a design. The front centre(center) features the OK/Cancel logo. The back features the “Kicking the Llama” strip and underneath, the text “Interface Your Fears. www.ok-cancel.com” which is not shown in the strip.
I had in mind a black t-shirt but Ivan fancies blue so we drew a blue shirt. The problem is, we have no idea how to get such shirts made at a reasonable cost (to you and to us). We’ve looked at cafepress, zazzle, 99dogs, customink, madmerch, and all of them cost around USD$20. Our biggest problems are that we use a lot of colours so we can’t do traditional screen printing and we have about a 50/50 split in USA/UK readers (plus many other countries) so shipping may be an issue. If anyone has any insight or experience into making T-shirts, please let me know. We’d love to see this shirt become reality!