With the semi-recent passing of Steve Jobs, I've been thinking about his various philosophies and whether or not they have anything to do with knives. The big one, and one I've occasionally thought about, is whether or not you should listen to customers. In a 1985 interview with Playboy, he said: “We built [the Mac] for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research.” Twelve years later, he told Business Week: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And then on the same topic there is the possibly-not-from-Henry-Ford quote: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
A similar thing happens time and again when up and coming knifemakers appear on these forums. They show some knives, some people use them, and say what's wrong with them. Generally this has an effect of making the knives made by makers that frequent the boards similar in many ways. Sometimes the knives change enough that the original designs are hard to recognize. Sometimes they are simply the product of knifemakers that really didn't know how to design a knife, and needed obvious changes to impractical designs and sharp spines. Without pointing fingers I would say that the geniuses of design are a bit of a rarity in the knife world. Some are downright ugly. However, sometimes innovative products are lost to time because of the forum "focus groups."
This leads to the question of whether or not there is any innovation left to the humble kitchen knife. I can't argue for many major innovations that could be made on the order of the automobile or the personal computer. Unless you want to count the food processor or the slap chop: https://slapchop.com/ The closest thing to actual innovation is the catching on of Japanese styled knives, so that we're no longer held down by overly thick European style blades. However, it's hard to call centuries old ideas an innovation, it's more like it just started to catch on in the U.S. Some ideas such as the Alton's angles (http://www.amazon.com/Altons-Angles-.../dp/B0006HRPBE) or the hump spine design (http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/fb...7-DSC00309.JPG) don't catch on because customers are looking for something else. Maybe they're ugly, maybe they just don't work, or maybe people just aren't/weren't ready. What innovations are there? There are changes in things like belly that are mostly preference. Does the handle really need a major change from European and Japanese styles? There are many traditional styles and patterns, do we really need another one that would shake things up?
On the topic of Apple, only rarely did they actually create a whole new product. Often they just gave clean, functional design to an old product, made it work right, and gave it an effective marketing campaign. While innovative designs are one thing, it's surprising how many knifemakers can't just make a traditional knife look "right" and work right. Either they can't see what's wrong or they're not able to do what they see in their mind's eye.
Then the final problem: factory knives have flaws in execution, and usually aren't hand-friendly, and custom knifemakers with quality products just can't make enough knives to meet the demand. Will factory knives be able to up their game? Will custom knifemakers be able to make more knives? Will anyone show real innovation?