Good design only, please

Having worked with numerous makers from various backgrounds, we’ve noticed that many inventors – who work zealously to create cutting edge solutions to common consumer or industrial problems – struggle to bring their inventions into life in a way that is both creative and competitive. Most technically gifted inventors will stress on functionality, giving little to no attention to aesthetics and user experience.

Innovation is about looks too

The world has never been more conscious about appearances and style than it is today. Aside from clothing, homes, gadgets and vehicles – all need to look pleasing to the eye and convey a social position. Vanity metrics have a bearing even on one’s pay: typically, attractive people receive better compensation packages than their less attractive counterparts with similar specs.

So it would be ignorant for anybody to imagine that this does not carry forward to products that we interact with. For a modern consumer, aesthetics and user experience define functionality, and it’s about time inventors realise this.

Research has shown that companies that value good design have a higher likelihood of success. For example, the report published by the Design Council (UK) found that for every £1 businesses invest in design, they gain over £4 in net operating profit, over £20 in net turnover and over £5 in net exports.

Take this example. A drain cleaning product. Really basic. The company had two options: to spend many thousands in precious money on advertising to push through the tough competition OR to design a great product that would sell itself from any store shelf. And thus was born the Buster brand. The new packaging and labelling (1) highlighted clearly a key message, (2) improved the product’s portability and (3) featured some great graphics. To achieve these, the company put in just about £100,000 into design which then has gone on to average conversions of 2.5 million units sold each year. Lesson learnt: design sells.

Buster took the design to the next level: competitors stood no chance.

Now look at this one. Thermostats (which basically are home heating management systems) have been around for decades now, and one could easily assume that nobody really cares if they look good or not as long as they do the job. Well, customers do care. And this is what drove Nest to re-define the way a thermostat works: they took the mundane and made it extraordinary. Next, Google found the product so interesting that it acquired the company for US$3.2 billion – a significant amount given that the company only sold a total 1.3 million units since inception to 2014. Lesson learnt: design sells.

Meet the "simple, beautiful and thoughtful" Nest Thermostat from Nest Labs.

Want good design? Be ready to pay up.

Because effective design gives a ready reason for a customer to buy from you and not from your competitor. Well-designed products give off “quality and value” – which may be actual or not – and also naturally contribute to the creation of a brand identity. This incentivises customers to buy and, if need be, pay a premium.

So pay heed, inventors and makers out there: Quit playing handicap and start prioritising design. Work with professionals and build products that will sell.

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