Play Video

Why use a designer?

When people in business and industry ask me why they should employ a designer, I ask them to recall the very last object they purchased for themselves. (It might be a bar of chocolate, a disposable pen, a pair of shoes, a mobile phone, an insurance policy, a car, whatever…). I then ask them to describe to me the decision that lead to that purchase. What factors were involved? Cost? Value? Availability? Function? Fitness-for-purpose? Convenience? Quality? Aspiration? Image? Brand? All are valid and convincing reasons.

But what had the designer to do with any of this?

The answer is that the designer understands that consumers are looking for benefits and that for a product to succeed, its benefits must be convincing and they must be made evident to the consumer. “People don’t use a product because of the great design; great design helps them use the product” Viran Anuradha Dayaratne

Design is not simply just packaging and polish. It’s not just about look and feel. Design is concerned with all of the specifications of a product and the ways in which it meets the requirements and desires of a consumer in any given environment. The key point here is that design is a consumer driven practice. We all make thousands of decisions and judgments every day by processing information we see presented to us. Research into the psychology of consumer behavior shows us that the decision-making process follows a fairly predictable pattern. Typically, consumers will - when presented with any given problem - become alert to information about available products. They become highly sensitised and highly selective. Perceptual processes will dictate the types of information consumers pick up on and how they sort, organise and interpret that information.

Which product benefits do they see? Which ones do they pay attention to? Which benefits are attractive given their beliefs, attitudes, motivations and past experience? Which benefits are meaningful? It is human nature that we judge a book by its cover. On meeting someone new, the first few seconds are spent making decisions and judgments about his or her characteristics and qualities, and aligning those with our own. Over time, these first impressions may be modified, but they tend to remain a powerful filtering agent we use to fast track decisions and protect us from potentially irritable or even harmful environments.

First impressions are just as critical to the consumer decision-making process. Many businesses assume that the benefits they’ve built into their product or service are the very same benefits that consumers seek. They proceed then to focus their marketing efforts on promoting these functions and features of their product, unaware that they’ve missed the mark. Of the MP3 players war, ‘Creative’ were of higher specification than the iPod and were sold on the basis of their features, but their design was hard for consumers to use.

Designers know that the decision-making process is dominated by the individual’s beliefs about the product and the brand. Good design instills a first-impression of innate fitness-for-purpose, good value, high quality, convenience and appealing image – all the criteria people suggest as reasons why they’ve bought specific products. Where good design meets high quality, it also generates longer-term confidence in the product or service, encouraging brand loyalty, repeat custom and customers who become brand ambassadors. These core beliefs are so powerful they can even serve to override any shortfalls or deficiencies in the product features.

In such cases, the product sometimes becomes more than a solution to a problem; it becomes a valued and trusted symbol. It’s easy to think of examples of great design that have become so iconic that people choose to define themselves by them: the Mac-user, the VW Golf driver, the Prada wearer, the Coke drinker, the Twitter tweeter, etc. The consumer buy-in gives an instant membership to a desirable club full of likeminded cool, fashionable, aware, intelligent, cultured people who make admirable decisions about products.

“Great design will not sell an inferior product, but it will enable a great product to achieve its maximum potential” Thomas J Watson Jr

Getting design right is very important; it is also makes good business sense. Research by the Design Council UK discovered that shares in design-led businesses outperform key stock market indices by 200%. Isn’t it time your business invested in design?