The other day, I came across a t-shirt that read “I’ll pay more for good design.” Now granted, I found it on a site I’d gotten from CoolHunter as I was looking for Hanukkah gifts, and the store was in Brooklyn and all that.
(For those of you not in NYC, there’s a not-all-that-inaccurate stereotype of a certain type of Brooklynite who works in an arts/media related field, doesn’t make a whole lot of money, but who asserts his/her superiority over the Wall Street crew by “paying more for good design.”)
It set me to thinking though about how much design matters. I recently did a post on Dell’s agency search where I noted that The Real Digital Revolution had made advertising somewhat secondary to actual product performance and design, both of which can easily be researched on the interweb. I heard back from a VP at Dell who was very excited to tell me (and my readers) all about the hot new product designer they’d just hired. And I remember thinking “Oh, okay. He gets it.”
At a time when so many products have become mere commodities and when advertising doesn’t have the effect it once did, design is the best way to differentiate yourself from the pack. And, hipster t-shirts notwithstanding, people will pay more for good design, because good design has a halo effect and makes the product seem more valuable.
Good design isn’t limited to products, either. Stores can have good design (Starbucks, Whole Foods) and so can airlines (Virgin, Jet Blue). The message of good design is that “we’re thinking about you, our customer. We’re designing a product that you’ll feel good about.” It’s how companies can differentiate themselves these days and it’s more valuable than any kind of advertising or 2.0 trick out there.
Simply put, design is the new advertising.