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Ronan's report

Tuesday January 29th, 2008

Scribbling furiously for the last few days - deadline time. While working on my review columns, this thread has been niggling away, in the back of my mind. Interesting thread that raises all manner of issues - some real some false.

The point of departure asks if the notion that "Price changes changes the way people experience…". Frankly, of course it does. For example, for years Stella Artois used the slogan "Reassuringly Expensive" at the core of their UK advertising campaigns - you think they did that for laughs? At one point the brand mangers were so confident that their product was associated with quality that they allowed their Advertising Company to play on the slogan they had spent years building - running a 'Surrealist' advert with the slogan "Reassuringly Elephants". Thing is, Stella is not sold as a Reassuringly Expensive lager in its home patch, Belgium - where, apparently, it sells well but is an ordinary lager at an ordinary price.

Very few fly rods are extraordinary IMHO - if for no other reason than what you value most might mean a little to me, might be nothing to Paul and everything to Lars or Bob or Tom, Dick and Harry. Those rods which are extraordinary tend, again IMHO, to be those which catch the spirit of the time - they set a trend and become more or less iconic. Oddly they remain iconic even when subsequent models, following the trend they set, beat them on all counts - anything from function, through build and looks to price. That's in the nature of the iconic - be it a sacred painting or a fly rod - they represent and give access to something more, something greater… No-one can design for that, it just happens.

Good design is not the same thing - that can be touched and felt and a good designer can do it again. In my head, good design means having a clear idea of purpose and using every part of the whole to achieve that end.

If the purpose is to bring a decent rod to market for $100 and the rod sells for $100 and casts a fair line then the design brief was met successfully. Similarly, if a rod comes along that was designed to cast as far as possible (with a specific type of line) and in the right hands it does - then the design is good. If the brief is to make a not bad rod at a not bad price, often the case, the design brief is poor - in essence the challenge is to 'make something average.' - very hard indeed to say anything meaningful about the mundane, however useful mundane objects may be.


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