Monday, September 10, 2012

The Power of 3

An explanation of my design process



For some, my reasoning may seem a bit illogical. Why produce 3 different patterns from one initial idea? To explain my reasoning a bit better, I want to discuss my design process and vision and how one idea can evolve over the course of 4 months...from initial design to final product.

It all started with an idea and a sketch.

For me, any kind of design starts with my initial concept, then moves quickly to paper. In ink or pencil I sketch my concept, write notes, and try to figure out how I want to actualize this vision. I then try to decide what fiber/yarn would be the best choice, the color, and also the design elements I want to incorporate.

In the case of Primrose, I wanted to play on both the nature of a fictional character from a piece of literature as well as incorporate aspects of her name, its literal meaning. For every sock in my Hunger Games inspired "Tribute Series," I have tried to incorporate both aspects, the actual definitions of the characters names or some other element of their personalities as tied to nature or some other obvious design element. For Peeta, the boy with the bread, it was wheat. With Katniss, it will be the katniss flower, and with Gale it was a storm.

I wanted these socks to have a simplicity and strength and childlike innocence to them to reflect Prim's character. But I also wanted it to be a pretty, delicate sock, something a young woman might covet. Not too fancy, but just fancy enough.  I tried to work elements of the Evening Primrose Flower into the sock design as well. It has large, delicate, petals with a heart shape to them. I tried to add this shaping into the toe, and cuff. I also added optional floral details.  If you look at my original sketch, you can see I was trying for a delicate feminine silhouette, a sock that seemed almost ribbed but also lacy (I wanted to have a wide range of comfortable fits) and has a pretty, curved cuff.

As I continued to develop the pattern, I realized that in order to create the sock of my initial vision, I'd have to make a pattern that might be to complex or intimidating for a lot of knitters. It was also harder to get a really wide range of sizes as the cuff shaping really limited how many sizes I could do. I didn't want to compromise on any of the design elements, I wanted to give people options. As I started to put together the options, I realized I really had designed two different socks, possibly 3, to accommodate both my needs and desires for this design. 

So, should I compromise design for simplicity, or compromise simplicity for design? I then end, I decided to treat this like any design project and consider my audience. Who was I designing for? Did I want to alienate anyone with this pattern? 

Instead of making one massive sock pattern with so many options it would confuse all but the most advanced knitter, I decided to break this pattern into three--three different customers, three different markets, three different products spawned from an original idea. 

We do this in apparel design all the time. Lets say that for Fall what's really hot beaded leather miniskirts over tights. For the designer/couture market that would be a real leather skirt with hand embroidered and or beaded elements and a very limited size range (think Neiman Marcus). The mass market/contemporary version might have a small bit of machine embroidered elements, the skirt may be smaller and have less involved in the overall construction. It might have also have larger range of sizes and cost significantly less.  (Think Banana Republic or J.Crew). The budget version would be made of imitation leather, come in a huge range of sizes and colors, and of course the cost would be significantly less (think Target). In some rare instances, you might have one designer working for a company that has 3 or more distinct markets designing in this manner. A company like GAP Inc, that has a Bridge, Contemporary and Budget market might have a lead designer start with a concept or sketch and then turn that concept into three different garments at three different price points. That's why you can find similar items at Banana Republic, GAP and Old Navy...they are essentially the same original idea, reinterpreted for the needs of that company's three distinct markets.  Its more than just the price that is different. Its also the materials, the care, the construction....

PRIMROSE is my designer sock. It is a narrower sock with fewer sizes. It has a fancy floral motif and a more complex heel and arch and foot. The $6 price point reflects the extra work that went into the pattern drafting and development of this sock. On a difficulty scale of 1-5, I'd say this sock is a 3.5-4

PRIM is my mid-range contemporary sock. Its got a lot of sizes, two different options for foot and toe, no fancy floral motifs. A basic sole and heel and foot. In general, this sock is fancy, but not as fancy as Primrose. It is also much more versatile than the other two patterns with mix-and-match options. It has a clear, easily understood description and a pattern that was written with a more beginner knitter in mind. The $4 price point reflects the level of difficulty for design, as well as the amount of charting created etc. On a difficulty scale of 1-5, I'd say this sock is a 2.5-3

SIMPLE PRIM is my budget version. No fancy toe. No fancy heel. But almost unlimited sizes for width and length. Its more of a "preview pattern" than a full pattern. You can knit a complete pair of socks, but it is a very basic sock. Probably the most plain vanilla sock I've created so far.  A great, no commitment, first lace sock project with a lace chart that is super easy to memorize and a sock pattern that doesn't require much as far as technique and skill. On a difficulty scale of 1-5, this is easily a 1.5-2. And its free. 

Because in the end, I wanted to create a sock that everyone might knit. I just realized that not everyone would want to pay the designer premium for the designer sock. 

2 comments:

The Ferret said...

Very fascinating.

Hello! I followed the link from the gorgeous Ridley pattern you did for Knitty's Deep Fall 2013 edition.

do u mind if I inquire as to how you chose the sizes you did for the Prim version of the sock? Specifically why you chose to go with narrower sizes? Was it because the pattern looked better with a narrower design or a different reason?

I also really enjoy hearing about your works inside the fashion industry and designing for multiple markets. It's always interesting to hear more about it.

Do you know if the reason the designer line tends to be for a smaller ft genuinely because it sells better than having it in a larger size or simply because of a material cost issue?

anne said...

I have really enjoyed reading this post - it's so interesting. I think all of those socks are lovely, and the knee high ones are absolutely gorgeous. I am very impressed by your ability to design and create such lovely things.

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