What is bespoke?

Whilst reading a book about the differences between American and British English, I came across a discussion about the meaning of the word “bespoke”. Whilst it is used more in Britain than America, both groups agree that this is a term that is often misused.

Many craftsmen offering a bespoke service get very frustrated by those who use the terms “bespoke” and “made-to-measure” interchangeably. Such people, they insist, are very much mistaken, as the two terms mean totally different things.

Both of these terms originate from the tailoring industry. ‘Bespoke’ dates back to the 17th century, when tailors held full lengths of cloth in their premises. When a customer chose a length of material, it was said to have “been spoken for”. Once a material had been chosen, the tailor then measured the customer and, starting from scratch, produced a pattern and tailored a suit which met the customer’s every requirement. By creating a new pattern for each individual customer, rather than just modifying a base pattern, the tailor was sure that he hadn’t missed any nuances of the customer’s body. Additionally, the customer had no limit on what options he could request, regardless of complexity. Saville Row in London was – and still is – considered the home of bespoke tailoring.

On the other hand, “made-to-measure”, simply uses a basic, pre-existing template pattern, which is then adjusted to roughly the individual’s measurements. Although there may be hundreds of patterns and fabrics to choose from, the customer cannot expect anything not on the list. To misquote Henry Ford, “you can have anything you want, as long as it is a variation of something on the list”. Whilst made-to-measure provides a better fit and less of a mass-produced look than an off the shelf suit, it cannot truly be called bespoke.

The word ‘custom’ or ‘customised’ is a really loose term that could cover both bespoke and made-to-measure, as well as any modification whatsoever. A bumper sticker on a car could be argued to be customised. Customised is so nebulous a term as to be almost meaningless.

So how does this relate to dataviz? Well, all of our market research dashboards are bespoke in the sense that we start with a blank canvas, and we can accommodate any request that you may have.  We don’t offer you a choice of three chart types and 10 colours, we offer you any chart type, any colour and any layout or interaction that you feel suits your requirements.

If you are stuck or feel daunted by the prospect of a blank page, we can offer assistance in designing your very own unique dashboard, but if you already have an idea in your head, we can make it real.

Find out more about our bespoke market research dashboards.

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