Look to the Past to See the Future



 I am redecorating my office- more on that later- and in purge mode  and recently came across a charrette Susan Schultz and I did in 2006 about design sampling. Looking back to see what the future can be a great exercise. It is amazing to see how far we’ve come.

The theme for our event in 2006 was Follow Your Bliss. As Shelly Mouhouba designer and attendee, said about the original event, ” We must reinvent ourselves and take control of our industry.” Sound familiar? It does seem eerie that that statement was made 7 years ago, even before the Great Recession.


The charrette, a collaborative session in which a group of designers devise a solution to a design problem, subject was “What will your sampling look like in 2013?” The subject was framed by a survey done at the time that spoke to the issues of sampling- cost, packaging, sustainability, timelines and accuracy.  The survey stated that:

  •  3 out of 4 designers cite sampling as the most frustrating part of the process.
  • Designers are divided on the timeframes to get memos vs. the sample books themselves.
  • We typically request up to 5 samples a project. 
  • Manufacturers spend 1 month’s revenue on sampling that is used briefly and discarded
  • Unless the samples are a true representation of real world colors and patterns, we have no use for them.

Flash forward to 2013 , The future is now and we still have the same sampling issues. But what I think is more interesting are the five fabulous ideas from our charrette – ranging from “if you can dream it ; you can live it,” a virtual before and after and a Good/Better/Best sampling across product lines and categories.

The common threads were state-of-the-art technology to create sampling, co-branding among manufacturers and curating and customizing sample books. Some of these awesome ideas are in place by early adopter jobbers and manufacturers, some hopefully will be coming to the marketplace soon.


What do you think? How far have we come?  How dramatically has your perception of what and how you see sampling for your projects changed in the last 7 years? Here’s the charrette and the mind map results.

  idi charette sampling

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