Design is a generic word, used by one and everyone. In our day-to-day lives, we come across people from different strata, who like to comment on design of just anything around them, could be a fabric, a show, a phone, a building or a car and just everything that they come across with. Commenting on the design of any object, service or article is a manifestation of likes-dislikes, comfort-discomfort of the human beings. It really matters to them! It is a common man’s vocabulary. And each individual is endowed with a design sense that stimulates their senses in some form or the other. Design is a common man’s business…
Whereas designer with the suffix like: designer watch, designer cars, designer clothes are for the elite who can afford and savour the fine details of design and brand put together. These objects add to the snob value of the individuals.
Designers work with the manufacturers to help them in meeting the implicit and explicit need of the individuals (read buyers). As we evolve in technology and lifestyle, our needs and aspirations rapidly change. Businesses have to be dynamic to meet the constantly transient needs of the people. As our society upgrades, people become more and more important among our priorities. Their physical and emotional needs have to be identified and catered to.
Each business is vying for space, increased market share and long-term engagement with their customers. Established brands are investing to maintain their longevity and reach. New brands are trying to establish a connect with their customers while commodities are trying to create brands.
In the past few years, we have had customers coming in from up country who want to design packaging for things as mundane as rudraksha or atta and pusles. Small manufacturers and traders want to compete with established players in the industry. They want to change the perceptions of their target audience!
Multinationals know the value of design and they do invest in it to reap the returns. Indian market leaders, who are established brands are gradually understanding the importance of design in their new scheme of things. Small players, who are ambitious, feel that design can catapult them into a different league.
Brands endorsed by design and designs endorsed by brand are the call of the day. Brand is an asset, a long-term investment that fetches premium and ROI. To sustain a brand, companies need to constantly design and innovate. Innovation has to be on top of the agenda for each stakeholder in the supply chain. Innovation can no more remain a mere word in the vocabulary of Board of Directors and senior management. It has to be practiced by all.
Designers are the new breed of professionals, in the industry can be a great stimulus for innovation. Through an articulate thought process and in-depth understanding of the consumers / users or people, designers can change the perceptions. They can change the perception of the management, of the retailers and the consumers. Through design, a watch has become a lifestyle product from a mere utility, a phone has become a personal product from a mere communication device or a refrigerator has become a kitchen mate from just a cooling device.
Design creates and changes perceptions. Designers want to enhance the perceived value of the product. Perceived Value is not just a combination of two commonly used words but together, it creates a great synergy that can change the way businesses work. It is the face value of a product or the fist moment of truth! The product should have a legacy of the brand with a design that endorses it. Looks or aesthetics of any product gives its buyer a certain comfort level to proceed further.
In simple arithmetic, the Perceived Value of the product should be greater than the Actual Cost. i.e. if Perceived Value > Actual Cost then the chances of success are bright. On the contrary the reverse, Perceived Value < Actual Cost is likely to fail, whereas Perceived Value = Actual Cost may just make the product struggle to sell in the red ocean. A high perceived cost helps in charging a premium which would mean better margins or better bottom line.
Can we derive Perceived Value = x(Bottom line), where x is dependent on the creative and optimum blend of form, colour, finish, graphics and packaging.
So, looks do play a critical role in buying decision. But one-time buying may not help organisations to sustain in the long run. One needs to engage the customers for a long term with the brand. So, User Experience (UX) is the next big thing to build up long-term relationship with the customers. Brand Experience is like bagging the AMC (Annual Maintenance Contract). Designers have to play a key role in consciously building a brand experience in the consumers. Simple ‘needs’ of the consumers have to be identified and converted into features, out of the box ideas can give surprises (pleasant ones only) and delight the consumers. In cars, we earlier had only the fuel level show the remaining fuel in the vehicle, whereas now the feature indicates the number of kilometres that the vehicle can run on the remaining fuel. This is like speaking the users’ language. With the traffic nightmare in the metros, the user wants to know as to how much time will it take to reach the destination and not the number of kilometres left. This can be easily executed by integrating the route chosen, GPS and the traffic situation (linked trough the satelliteAny takers there? ) (this article was written 6 years back when Google maps did not have traffic and best route interface).
Brand experience can be contagious: it creates word of mouth publicity and increases interests in the product in a larger consumer spread. This means more numbers and increase in topline. Can we infer that Brand Experience = (Topline)n Where ‘n’ is dependent on how well the designer understands the needs of the users and integrates it with technology and trends in the consumers’ language. A great brand experience can improve the topline exponentially. The most cliché example doing the rounds for last few years is Apple, iPod, iPhone, etc. Unfortunately, we do not have any such examples in India, or even outside India? Maybe, Titan has been successful in its pursuit to create a huge footprint in the local market, through strategic design.
User Experience is also supported with a great CRM. This would include giving the right information to the customer at the right time. Overdose of information and constant updating may act as an irritant. Information design is another area that creates an emotional connect with the customer. Same goes with service or customer support. These are excellent tools for the brand experience! Service Design is an upcoming area. Designers can use the consumer and stakeholders’ insights to design a delightful service experience for the customers. Evolution of design will see a new breed of designers who will design services that are not only functional but also delightful.
Great businesses strategise to win the crowded market place. Last few decades were dominated by ‘market strategy’ and most wars were fought on price, technology, and features. Of late, great businesses talk about design in their communication, Vaio’s ‘Size Zero ‘ laptop or Dell’s ‘Personalized Graphics’ on their laptops, or Sony’s ‘Monolithic LED TV’ are examples where communication is anchored around design. It means organisations are transitioning towards design-centric strategies than exclusively sales driven strategies. Design strategy is the new mantra for success! Rejuvenated organisations are re-manoeuvring their vessels through the consciously crafted design routes. Design Strategy has to enter into the board room! It will create a win-win situation for the sellers and buyers both!
The rise of Samsung mobile phones to the top is an outcome of a visionary design strategy. The case has been phenomenal in the history of the mobile industry. A brand that was way down the ladder and was treated as a side kick, just 10 years back has demolished the bigwigs of the industry like Ericsson, Alcatel, Philips, Siemens etc. One single factor that can be attributed to this unprecedented rise in its brand perception, and in turn the market share, is Design.
One of the key ingredients in achieving success through design is the art of manufacturing. Execution of design with fine details, neatness and precision, brings out the idea into reality in its true earnest. For design to prosper, we need enthusiastic R & D, supported with innovative manufacturing. Whereas, China is taking great strides in both design and manufacturing, many times, the perception about Chinese products is of low esteem. This is primarily because they do not cue great execution, details and reliability. Most of the Chinese products that Indian consumers come across are low priced and poor in execution. This has led to a widespread belief amongst Indians that Chinese products are neither reliable nor long lasting. No one can deny that China also manufactures products with very stringent quality standards, but somehow the face of its low quality manufactured products has rubbed off also on its high-end products. Many Chinese consumer durable companies in India have failed because of this generic consumer perception. Fortunately, Indian products are better placed, the only thing we lack is manufacturing efficiency to bring down the cost while maintaining the high standards of quality. As mentioned earlier, innovative design has to be aptly supported by innovative manufacturing. Great ideas need to be converted right, and this needs lateral thinking and a positive attitude down the supply chain.
Markets are in a transient state! Technology is being taken for granted by the consumers. Technology is also accessible to all. Consumers need emotional and sensorial connect with the products they buy. Personalization is taking over customization. Obsolescence has to be consciously planned for the emerging new breed of customers, who is highly discerning in their choices. The future organisations will plan their businesses with a user-centric design approach! Those who don’t do, may have to start all over again.
‘Design means Business’ is the new Mantra!