Direct communication with photographers.

31 08 2008


Women participate in a survey with Lily Fisher, senior designer and developer with Think Tank Photo, on Friday night, August 8th, during the Women In Photojournalism conference in New Orleans, La.

Women participate in a survey with Lily Fisher, senior designer and developer with Think Tank Photo, on Friday night, August 8th, during the Women In Photojournalism conference in New Orleans, La.

As a product designer, it is interesting to me that most companies do not allow their designers to talk directly to their customers. Designers are very creative, analytical, and intuitive, and there is no substitute for talking directly to the person using the product. Regardless, many companies put other people in the way of this relationship, such as product managers, sales and marketing people, and the like. 


I think the simple reason for this is “control.” Companies don’t like for the designers to be in control, or even to give input on what should be strategically developed. 

Sometimes I refer to this as the “Politics of Product,” meaning the internal company politics that occur about which products should be developed and why. For those of you involved in the design, marketing, or sales of any type product, you probably already intuitively understand what “The Politics of Product” actually means. Let me further try to clarify this.

When a product is designed by committee, all sorts of people give input into what they think the product should be, each person representing a special interest. For example, the designer wants some cool features, the sales people want a certain price point, the marketing person wants something else, etc, etc, ad infinitum. The Politics of Product occurs when the grand debate ensues about what the product should be, what features it should have, what it should cost, and more.

My design philosophy is actually the opposite. There are no business people between the designers and the photographers. Designers should  listen directly to what the photographers need and want and make it for them. No politics! 

Using this design strategy is an absolute pleasure – working with photographers directly, the ones out in the field using the equipment, to find out what their needs are, asking them what works and what doesn’t. As a designer, the most satisfying thing is hearing from a photographer that the product exceeded his expectations!



4 responses

4 09 2008
Matt Antonino

Hi Doug!

Good post about communication with photographers – I think you nailed what design *should* be – problem solving for those with problems, not theoretical problems.

I would like to communicate with you about a project we’re undertaking and I’m wondering what’s the best way to go about that without being a hassle to you?

Matt Antonino

17 10 2008
Scott Slattery

Doug, Great Post! After working in R&D at Eastman Kodak for the last 18 years I can whole heartedly agree that designers need to talk directly to users! To many times product releases are driven by marketing and corporate interests – in our industry it’s printers that are faster, faster, faster – rather than delivering what the customers really want – higher quality printing at the same speed or even slower!

Can’t wait to see you at Photoplus!

6 02 2009

Hi Doug
I love your products, and admire the way you keep trying to improve it.
Having a chance stop by my website, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

7 06 2009

Hi Bill, sorry for the delay, I don’t check my blog that often. You are right concerning your comments. There are some carts where the wheels flip out from the side, and they have 4-5″ of clearance, the most I have seen. I think the bottom line is that a well design cart will out perform a roller, although it is a hassle. You can always email me at

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