This actually used to be one of my lead-ins with new customers to take them off guard when they first walked into my commission based r...

I'm a Salesman. Not a Psychic...

This actually used to be one of my lead-ins with new customers to take them off guard when they first walked into my commission based retail store and asked. "Do you know what I need?"

"How should I know, I'm a salesman, not a psychic!"
It was sort of a play on the old Star Trek Dr. McCoy phrasing of "I'm a doctor, not a...". However it has come to mean something entirely different to me over the years. Originally it was a leading joke, something light hearted that would let customers know I was on their side, and that I didn't already have in mind what I was going to sell them. We'd all have a giggle and then I would help the customer empty their wallet on tons of things they didn't even know they needed, which had actually been picked out before they ever stepped foot in my store.
(I was still a salesman after all) ;)
That was a long time ago and I've no need to be that type of "non-psychic salesman" these days. In recent years However, I've found myself uttering those very same words, just in response to many different questions under entirely different circumstances.

  • How do I know what game to make?
  • What designs should I use on this product?
  • What product should I make my art for?
  • Do you think it'll actually sell?
  • Will my design still be in style by the time this gets printed?

We are called on to follow a process known as "futurecasting" formerly simply referred to as "market forecasting". We have to know what the mass market trends are, what emerging trends will be coming up, what trends are on their way out, and what trends are likely to stick around. We study what the general market trends currently are, look at advancements in technology, study color guides and past color trends. We look at everything from design in eras gone by and concept art from artists who dream of the future and then (usually pretty accurately) determine the next big trend before it ever even happens. A lot of us find ourselves on the same wave length and it's what actually ends up driving the trend!
Pretty spooky huh?
Project development spans months, and years sometimes. Think about one of the last movies you saw. How amazing were those special effects?! How awesome were those gadgets?! Every bit of that was planned YEARS in advance. Yet you didn't actually get to purchase it until the movie was released (around the same time of the commercial product release). Yet, there it was, a really cool tech piece that you want now, and you will likely go get to stay on top of the digital trend.
Those clothes in the movie...?, same thing. Someone futurecast those with the help of a clothing designer and several other futurecasting creatives. The looks then bleed out onto runways, and into commercial designs for everything from clothes, to cars, to gadgets, and furniture. It dictates way more than you even realize at first.
It's an amazing mix of intuition, research, and honed practice to sniff out the next big thing. Some call us psychic, some call us trendsetters, we know what's going on before it happens, we're the cutting edge. Sometimes you nail it on the head, Sometimes you miss. Either way, you ship it, and move onto the next big thing.

In reality, artists, game creators, entrepreneurs, art directors, web designers, commercial artists and others in commercial product development, are not called on to be psychics. It's not far from it though if you think about it.
So why am I sharing this and Why should you?
There are a lot of young artists, designers, creatives, technopreneurs, entrepreneurs, etc. all of whom are dreamers. They have big ideas but have no understanding of these concepts and so they flounder along until they finally discover them for themselves or it's taught to them by one of the bigger companies they eventually get to work for. I can personally say these concepts were never taught to me and college and if they had been, I'd have accelerated my understanding of commercial product development a lot sooner. I further believe It's our duty to inform those walking the path behind us and to empower them with the right types of tools and strategies that aim for growth in all of human existence.
(This was originally posted on my LinkedIn)