"I'm trying to get beyond this reductionistic argument that "any disagreement with BPL dogma is driven by corporate greed alone." That whole narrative is wearing thin for me. I'm open to the possibility that a manufacturer might actually be acting in good faith, and trying to put out an improved product."
I don't think it is greed, just attention to marketing factors that don't fit my needs. It's more incompetence than malfeasance.
What's the design process? A small task force is asked to update the last model, surveys, reviews and other feedback are studied, features like cuff adjustments or zipper details or current fashion colors may be introduced, the fabric samples come out (this is the important part), it all gets kicked around, it is written up, samples are made and reviewed and somewhere in the process someone in authority says "go," and the patterns are sent off for production samples, they are reviewed and away we go. At each stage the marketing folk have their input and there are other folk who do cost analysis to get the product to fit into the right cost for the perceived market slot. Personalities and authority have their influences. There amy be opinions worked into the process that have nothing to do with good science and engineering and divorced from the laws of physics.
Taking The North Face as an example, some of us are old enough to have watched the brand go through several changes in market direction with more of an emphasis on urban fashion than mountaineering. It has been interesting to watch Eddie Bauer swing back and forth with the First Ascent line and it's prominence and position in the stores and catalogs.
It's a pulling contest from several directions and there are market sections that we don't get into directly, like running, biking, skiing, team sports, rock climbing, gym/conditioning, and even some military uses. That last may have more good influence for backpacking than the rest and it is more than the US armed forces too.
But after the cookies have been baked, someone has to get the stuff sold and the design teams have to justify their decisions and all the other corporate machinations. Good scientific method requires research, then theory. Marketing tends to take a feature and then attach attributes and benefits to it, basically doing the "research" to support the theory instead and finding reasons to "pitch" the product.
Let me give an example of an item I just ran into. I found this pair of Novara/REI bike gloves. They have a tag hanging off the side that has the Novara logo on it. It is reflective, but I'll bet dinner that no one on the design team said, "we need a reflector on that outer seam" and then the logo was added. I'm sure it was much more like someone on the marketing side wanted more brand identification and a compromise was made to add the tag rather than some big logo splashed across the back of the glove. The tag is in a poor spot for reflecting in traffic and there are more integrated reflective panels on the knuckles anyway. As a user, I can see no real purpose for this tag and in fact I find it annoying. It is also difficult to remove. it just marketing hype that the user has to pay for and live with.
Here is the REI blurb on this product. The italics are mine and something I see as a justification for the junk that marketing added to an otherwise good design. This stuff is pervasive and we are saturated in it. And I hold it is the product of design by committee. Imagine a Frank Lloyd Wright design with an equivalent "tag" hanging off the side. I don't think so. This is where Apple succeeded: just the look and feel of the product identified it as an Apple product, to the extent that everyone else had robbed the designs.
The sleek, windproof Novara Headwind biking gloves protect and insulate hands from brisk winter weather.
Polyester laminate fabric blocks wind and repels water; microfleece lining and stretch cuffs retain valuable heat
Padding in the synthetic leather palms cushions and protects hands from the vibrations of rough roads; reinforced thumb and forefinger panels enhance durability
Fleece thumbs mop up brow moisture
Reflective detailing increases your visibility in low light