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Much of the discussion of design revolves around the notion that great ideas do not come from understanding the customer. Steve Jobs and Henry Ford are frequently quoted to support this view. I prefer this quote about Charles Eames, the famous furniture designer:
“He never worried much (as many designers do) about ‘what the public wants,’ or ‘what the public will accept,’ because he had a profound belief in the public, and the conviction that if they didn’t want or wouldn’t accept the furniture which he was designing for their use, the fault lay in his designs, not in the public."
I think this more humble statement strikes the right balance between design and the customer.
Jeff Bussgang, a well known VC in Boston, has some thoughts from his blog "Seeing Both Sides" on the same theme here.
The quote came from Curiosity Counts.