Focus Groups: It’s Like Saying the F-Word to Creatives

We all use the f-word. But knowing how and why to use it can make all the difference in the creative process.

Focus Groups: It’s Like Saying the F-Word to Creatives


I have
always had a deep respect for and synergistic relationship with marketing. I
understand the importance of strategic positioning and believe good design is
informed design. I love diving deep into the customer demographic, walking a
mile in the prospective buyer’s shoes, and listening intently to the
salesperson’s insight.
But there
is one thing that I find to be not only a waste of time but a buzzkill to the
creative process: the focus group. Yes, the f-word. It could be redefined in the
New Design Dictionary as such:

n. /fŭkūs/gɹuːp/

1. A way
of giving power to people who are highly motivated by: a.) a free lunch, b.) a small fee, or c.) hearing themselves speak.


2. A
means of wasting countless design and strategy hours, and negating years of
expertise by depending upon the opinion of people who either don’t know or
don’t care.

3. A way
of removing or shifting responsibility for the economic success or failure of
any product, marketing strategy, or promotional campaign because the “focus group preferred it.” See also: scapegoat

4. A
highly effective way of killing any type of innovation, intuition, or
creativity in a formal, costly setting versus an equally accurate alternative
known as the dartboard.


5. A
quick means to making a product, strategy or marketing project bland (or in
some cases, worse) in order to appease all who attended or participated. Refer
to example: Pontiac AZTEC

In spite of
its bleak definition, the focus group can be positive and informative depending
on the part of the process it informs. Focus groups are best utilized in the
pre-design process and information-gathering phase. They can provide insight
into who the participants are as a demographic group and what they need and

But please, let the use of the f-word stop there.


Related Stories:
Why Designers Need to Focus on Focus Groups

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Laura Guido-Clark is an expert in the
skin of consumer products–their color, materials, and finish. This is
perhaps the area of industrial and textile design that requires the
greatest understanding of the human heart. Laura has spent her life
studying the always new and always surprising ways that human beings
react to the look and feel of any given product.


Laura is the rare color and finish
consultant whose expertise includes not just textiles but heavy
manufacturing industries such as automotive, electronics, and major
household appliances. This experience has given her vast knowledge of
the raw materials and processes used in product categories across the
board. Throughout her twenty-plus year career, Laura has analyzed the
conscious and unconscious influences that drive buying decisions. Her
ability to translate those influences into prescient forecasting and,
ultimately, into concrete applications of color and finish has helped
companies such as Samsung, Apple, Mattel, and Toyota design products
that resonate with consumers and succeed in competitive markets.