What makes a design a success?

I have been reading and considering the viewpoints of the members of the Crochet Designers’ Group on Ravelry in this discussion thread.  They are discussing ways to help change the mindset of many crocheters who don’t like crocheting garments, but prefer to crochet housewares and other items.  I have been considering the discussion for several days, and while I completely understand how this could be frustrating for designers who would like to design other things, I think we should examine what we define as a successful design.

Specifically, I think we should examine the purpose of publishing fancy garments in fine yarns in magazines: in one of my jobs several years ago I used to manage a craft gift shop. The previous manager had focussed heavily on smaller items as those were what tended to sell, but I found that without the bigger expensive items the cheaper items didn’t sell as well — the big pieces sold the small pieces.

I haunt the local book and yarn stores searching for crafting magazines and books, and I will buy a magazine or a book for the masterpiece project that would take months to complete, and I will read it again and again. I may not make it, in fact I probably won’t, as I have more things to knit and crochet than I fear I will ever finish, but it sold the magazine – is that a failure of the design? Does every pattern written for publication need to be made over and over? There are so many other measures of success: it may improve your reputation, or make a fan, or sell the magazine that will sell yarn and help you get more business in the future, because you made that fabulous thing that people remember. All of these things are important and help your career, and I wouldn’t consider that outcome a failure, even if only two people ever make it.

Those designs are kind of like the wedding dress at the end of a fashion show — not many people are in the market for a wedding dress, but it can be over the top and designed for the most special day in a person’s life (whether the day is in fact the most special day is beside the point — the dress is designed for the most special day — I suspect that most most special days happen when you are naked, or in a hospital gown, or jeans, or pajamas, etc.).  Some designs are like that — they are designed to be masterpieces of the crafter’s art, and they will likely be made less than something more approachable that requires less expense, time, and thought — but that doesn’t mean they are not successes.

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