One of my readers recently commented "I regularly read your blog, and you provide a plethora of information, but I feel you need to provide an explanation of why you feel there is a controversy with the "dumbing down of patterns." I personally find beauty in a well executed simple knit as well as the most complex lace shawl. I don't see a controversy."
Since I've been doing the interview series, I've noticed that the designers who have a strong opinion on this topic are always the ones who have been publishing the longest. They are, therefore, the most aware of the changes that have occurred with the shift in consumer expectations. New designers often don't respond at all which tells me that this is a question that only makes sense if you are aware of the industry’s evolution. The changes also seem to have occurred mainly in North America. European designers rarely have much to say on this topic.
Designers struggle for balance with the amount of technique detail. The usual advice is that techniques beyond the basics must be explained, but there is not always agreement on what is truly basic. Every knitter brings a set of experiences to their knitting and that experience varies widely. As more and more detail is added the pattern becomes longer, more expensive to produce and tech edit. At the same time designers who add a high level of detail are criticized for their lack of conciseness. Some knitters have told me if a pattern has too many pages they won't even consider knitting the project.
When I worked in my LYS the hardest books to sell were technique books; many knitters felt they were an unnecessary expense. Yet designers gobble this type of book up because they want to continually expand their skill sets. As designers, we like to experiment and sometimes we forget that not all knitters want to go down that path. Secondly, designers are focused on finding the best way to accomplish a given outcome and they want to share this knowledge. Check out the prices on The Principles of Knitting: Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt here. (The new edition coming out in Feb 2012 will probably change the high cost of the older edition.)
It is a situation where I find myself thinking of the famous quote “you can make some of the people happy all the time, all of the people happy some of the time but you can't make all of the people happy all of the time”. The good news for knitters...designers talk about this because ultimately we are all trying to make sure that every knitter enjoys the process and the end result. We want you to get the same joy that we do from knitting because we are passionate about our vocation!