When we say that only what bows down to the Market™ can sell we are acknowledging that selling is our standard of success.
Those complaints about the Market™ usually revolve around denial of a creative path. The guy who wanted to make a new and better site but instead had to make superficial fixes to the current one. Or the gal that wanted to make an ID project based on intricate, beautiful illustrations but instead had to narrow it down to some crappy blocky simple layouts.
But, even if the Market™ is the bad guy there, it is also the standard of accomplishment. We are saying: the Market doesn’t allow the freedom I need to make really good stuff! But we are also inadvertently saying that really good stuff is the stuff that sells — which is to say, stuff the Market™ likes.
For example, a girl wants intricate, beautiful illustrations, but he does not believe those illustrations are good in and of themselves — she thinks they are good for the market.
What i mean is not that we should try to avoid knowing better than our client what is best for his business. The problem i see is that those half-baked rebellions against the Market™ do not make our work any better!
For example, if we decided to focus in seducing the client “with all our guns” we could become better and better at “special-FX”. If we decided that “fuck the client” and went all for the quality of our “graphical language” (actually i hate this term) we could spend lots of energy into developing a personal style. Either way, our work is getting better.
Now just restating our old grudge against “those pesky, unenlightened, uncreative” Market-forces that insist in castrating our fancies — well, this bitching just keeps us anchored into the same spot.
Marketing and market-analyses, those things that measure everything by the amount sold, are useful. They help us understand the world. And therefore help make our work better. But they are not the ultimate truth. They are not the one thing that says if something is good or bad. A good selling history is not even a guarantee that many people liked the thing or that many people judged it “good”.
It is completely possible that a very very good illustration does not sell a copy, as it is possible that badly sized piece of furniture sells lots. This does not make bad designs good or the other way around. If we can’t even know a bad design from a good one before checking out it’s selling history, well… how good are we as designers?