Designing a better product: the idea of a brand.

From the point of view of a visual designer

In the times where innovation, profit and brand development rule the world more than ever, we need to ask an important question — Is it ok to pay as a customer (consumer) tons and tons of money every year for a product that has a slight difference to the previous one? And if yes, how can the industry create and produce enough innovative and ‘new’ products to feed the needs of the hungry market?

Let’s look at the whole situation from the beginning.

The Past
First of all, how did a product’s design become relevant? With the growth of the industrialization in the end of 19th century and revolutionizing mass-production techniques, people started thinking about creating simple but high-quality patterns and forms to produce goods with low-production costs. This led to a lot of craftsmen and technicians working together. The principle ‘Form follows function’ was born. The idea of shaping the object based on its intended purpose opened a new era of architectural and product design and remains relevant even today. Combining the design and function with the demand for higher quality led to happy customers that could easily use great products.

Another approach appeared. It combined the innovation factor with the design and customer acceptance — the MAYA principle. Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. Raymond Loewy, father of Industrial Design, believed that, “The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.” This approach leads to a complex product with the most social acceptance and creates a capability to develop daily used goods with a glimpse of future.

Then the era of human-centered design appeared on the horizon. The idea of creating a product around the user — understanding the impacts of a certain form and function — redefines the product development process. The psychology of the customer comes up as an important detail of the designing process. The diversity of the products explodes.

The Present

With lots of new similar products, an idea of ‘creating a brand’ appears. Companies like Apple, Nike, Nokia, Ikea or Coca-Cola master the art of aesthetics and consumer awareness — what puts these brands to the top of their game. Some of these brands have forever changed the way we expect the whole category’s appearance and function. The idea of making a product into a brand becomes priority #1. Companies hire marketers, psychologists, strategists, researchers and other professionals to unite the idea of a product and brand, and to develop a product that people love, appreciate, use and recommend.

Products which have achieved the goal of becoming a brand usually possess these elements:

  • strong recognition
  • desirability
  • aesthetics
  • attention to detail
  • user-centered design
  • simplicity
  • high quality
  • innovation

All these provide that added-value that the customers love and benefit from.

Some companies take the aesthetics alone as a brand success and develop a product that looks awesome, but has a catastrophic user experience or is of a really bad quality.

To say it with the words of Jonathan Ive:

“It’s not just about aesthetics. Our success is a victory for purity, integrity — for giving a damn”

(Interview with Jonathan Ive, Time, http://time.com/jonathan-ive-apple-interview/)

Aesthetics, strong recognition, attention to detail, simplicity and user experience — all of these things are relevant for the future success of the product. In this case, design is a synonym to all these elements. It is not difficult to create either a good looking or a simple product, it is the right combination of all these things that makes the difference.

The Future
It is necessary to have a good plan before you start developing the product. When developing an idea, always keep in mind the key elements of a future brand. Creating just another generic product does not take place here.

Concept

  • Think about the USPs of the product.
  • Know your budget.
  • Create a concept.
  • Develop a functional/technical structure of the product with the most advanced possible facet.
  • Then put the accents to point out the USPs of the product within the concept.
  • Create visual concept for a recognition point agenda.
  • Think about the non-physical values your product will deliver.
  • Define the emotions to increase the potential desirability.

Design

  • Take the visual design of the product seriously. Develop a product design with a idea of simplicity and aesthetics that completes the idea of the product.
  • Design to the fullest — love to details creates a long-term relationship between the product and the customer.

Evaluation and Implementation

  • Think about the trials, errors and quality assurance of the product. Make the user-experience as enjoyable as possible.
  • Develop the product with the most possible quality level. The physical value matters.
  • Create a product for a long-term usage — decrease the anxiety for the future.

Consistency of the future product line depends on the previous product. Think in advance.

Nowadays, with the overwhelming amounts of products and brands, it is very difficult to invent a new product/brand. The reality is an extremely competitive market with oversaturated product palettes and a growing price gap between the products within one category. What we need are affordable new products with a great outcome and personal value; and radical redesign of the products that need an innovative touch.

Always design a product with dedication, love and passion — and some day you will find your design nirvana and your product will become a brand.

Create wisely.