Design is everywhere. It’s built into every product we purchase; every store we visit to purchase these products; the product’s shape, functionality and materials, the packaging, the branding and the advertising. It’s all designed to entice us to purchase one certain product or service over another. We can tell when a product has been well designed just by looking at it. And smart companies know this and are capitalizing on good design to push their products to the forefront of consumer consciousness and increase their bottom lines.
And it’s no accident.
Companies are turning to design as the one factor that can set them apart in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Apple has known this since it began making its comeback in the late 90s – as Dell and IBM were churning out boring beige PCs to complement the boring cubicles in offices worldwide, Apple looked to its industrial designers to do something different. The lollipop brigade of iMacs was soon introduced, and with their bright colors, sleek processor-and-monitor-as-one design, and intuitive user interface, Apple turned the corporate computer industry on its head. It followed the success of the new iMacs with another innovative product, the iPod, which has been touted as “the most important product of the still-young 21st century.”1
In their book, “Do You Matter – How Great Design can make people love your company” Robert Brummer and Stuart Emery state that “Apple has built a design-driven culture that knows how to connect with its customers in a deeply emotional way. Apple products are portals to an amazing menu of continuing experiences that matter to a lot of us.” This design culture has helped Apple build a market capitalization of $162 billion in just 10 years, surpassing that of both Dell and IBM.
How? Because design matters – and good design matters most. Target knows this too, and even made an advertising campaign out of it. “Design for All” is their mantra, and they have succeeded in maintaining a top spot in people’s minds when it comes to cool, designer products at a reasonable price.
At the IDEA Awards (International Design Excellence Award), held in May in Washington DC, design and innovation of hundreds of new products were put to the test by an international panel of judges. Claudia Kotchka, former head of design at Procter & Gamble, summed it up when she said, “Business leaders should care about design because it hits the bottom line. More than anything else, design builds a business.”
Design has not only earned its place in the development of products or the design of their packaging or advertising – it is now becoming a player in the development of business processes. A new way of incorporating innovation into the workplace is called “Design Thinking.” This is a methodology that aims to solve business problems and challenges with a proven and repeatable protocol to achieve extraordinary results – by design.
If you’re interested in learning more about how good design can improve your business, there are a couple of great books out there on the subject. Mentioned above, “Do You Matter” is an easy and interesting read, and a very well designed book – from its layout and type design to its use of captions and images, it practices what it preaches.
Also, “The Designful Company” by Marty Neumier, (author of “the Brand Gap” and “Zag”, two other great “airplane books,” books that are designed to be succinct and poignant enough to be read on a brief flight) focuses on the relationship between good business and good design. All of these books explain how design, GOOD design, when utilized effectively, can have dramatic impacts on your business and the way your customers view your company and your products.