Design is key to diversity

Tim Morawetz is senior writer at the Mariposa Communications Group in Toronto, and guest editor of Design Exchange's newsletter.What does good design mean in your company?Is it the nifty, no-drip spout on your laundry detergent bottle? The way the middle seat...

Tim Morawetz is senior writer at the Mariposa Communications Group in Toronto, and guest editor of Design Exchange’s newsletter.

What does good design mean in your company?

Is it the nifty, no-drip spout on your laundry detergent bottle? The way the middle seat in your new minivan is so easily removed? Or the amazing layouts the agency’s art director did for your last newspaper ad campaign?

Good design is all these things – and a great deal more.

Customer satisfaction

Robert Blaich, a prolific American design consultant who spoke recently in Toronto at the Design Exchange’s Breakfast of Champions series, says design is much more than styling – it is a crucial tool in delivering customer satisfaction.

Blaich, the former senior managing director of corporate industrial design at Philips Electronics and vice-president of corporate design at u.s. furniture maker Herman Miller, says most corporate strategies focus on the core competencies of research, manufacturing, marketing and hr.

But, in today’s marketplace – with few real price, performance or quality differences between competitors – something else is needed to differentiate products and services.

Strategic advantage

Blaich says the strategic advantage of differentiation is being touted by everyone from Harvard competitiveness guru Michael Porter to marketing pioneer Philip Kotler.

‘Design – creatively, efficiently and assertively factored into the product creation process – can be the key to achieving that differentiation,’ he says.

Okay. This stuff sounds familiar, right? It should. After all, marketing and design have a great deal in common. They are both problem-solving activities. They both revolve around the customer/user.

But, while marketing is clearly defined and well-understood (by most of its practitioners, though not, perhaps, by anyone else), design tends to be shrouded in mystery.

Ambiguous

Somewhere between science (make it work well) and art (make it look great), design remains a puzzling and ‘creative’ process that, nevertheless, produces products, logos, packages and graphics that get us excited. (For me, this ambiguity is design’s great strength, but I digress.)

The connection between marketing and design might be understood as follows.

The marketer’s first task – identifying and understanding customer needs – provides the overall parameters and direction to a project.

After considering the consumer’s full range of needs (e.g., functionality, durability, self-expression or image), the designer produces a solution to the project.

Finally, the designer helps the marketer communicate the product/service and its benefits to the consumer.

(In his book, Product Design and Corporate Strategy, Blaich presents a product development model in which design, marketing and development/production are three corners of a triangle, with the consumer/product in the middle.)

Beyond the realm of individual products, the disciplines of marketing and design come together in creating the corporate image.

Blaich says if managed together – strategically – product design, communications design and environment design can create a coherent corporate image.

Otherwise, a different image is created – by default.

In addition to delivering his talk, Blaich was in Toronto to serve as a judge at the third annual Financial Post Design Effectiveness Awards.

Run by the Group for Design in Business (a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting design as an effective business tool), this juried awards program is the first in Canada to recognize and celebrate design’s contribution to business profitability.

The winners will be announced at an awards luncheon June 9 at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel.

Although the awards need greater publicity, this year’s list of finalists includes some of Canada’s top marketers.

In the package design and brand identity category, there is Culinar, Kraft General Foods, Kaufman Footwear and Oshawa Foods.

In retail environment design, there’s HMV Canada and Bell Canada

Clearly, some companies have learned that good design increases sales.

Helping businesses profit from design is the chief mandate of The Design Exchange, which opens this September in the former Toronto Stock Exchange building in the heart of the financial district.

dx bills itself as a not-for-profit institution, which acts as an agent of change in building Canada’s new economy through design and innovation.

dx has much to offer the marketing community.

Its Design Effectiveness Centre will provide a venue for showcasing new products and services. Its state-of-the-art facilities will be ideal for product launches, sales meetings and other events.

Its quarterly newsletter features interviews and new product stories.

Plus, informative lectures and a useful resource centre.

Corporate membership costs $150 for small- and medium-sized businesses; $500 for larger firms.

Call (416) 363-6121 for details.

I know, it all sounds so worthwhile. But is design really that important, especially in Canada?

Think about the Bombardier Skidoo, the Imax cinema system and Trivial Pursuit – all international successes created in Canada.

As we face greater competition from the u.s. and abroad, it is design that can give consumers that extra reason to buy your product, choose your service, or shop in your store.

Design, like marketing, has everything to do with customer satisfaction.

These successes did not happen by accident. It takes vision, energy and commitment to embrace design in your business strategy.

But can you survive without it?The winners will be announced at an awards luncheon June 9 at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel.

Although the awards need greater publicity, this year’s list of finalists includes some of Canada’s top marketers.

In the package design and brand identity category, there is Culinar, Kraft General Foods, Kaufman Footwear and Oshawa Foods.

In retail environment design, there’s HMV Canada and Bell Canada

Increases sales

Clearly, some companies have learned that good design increases sales.

Helping businesses profit from design is the chief mandate of The Design Exchange, which opens this September in the former Toronto Stock Exchange building in the heart of the financial district.

Agent of change

dx bills itself as a not-for-profit institution, which acts as an agent of change in building Canada’s new economy through design and innovation.

dx has much to offer the marketing community.

Its Design Effectiveness Centre will provide a venue for showcasing new products and services. Its state-of-the-art facilities will be ideal for product launches, sales meetings and other events.

Its quarterly newsletter features interviews and new product stories.

Plus, informative lectures and a useful resource centre.

Corporate membership costs $150 for small- and medium-sized businesses; $500 for larger firms.

Call (416) 363-6121 for details.

I know, it all sounds so worthwhile. But is design really that important, especially in Canada?

International successes

Think about the Bombardier Skidoo, the Imax cinema system and Trivial Pursuit – all international successes created in Canada.

As we face greater competition from the u.s. and abroad, it is design that can give consumers that extra reason to buy your product, choose your service, or shop in your store.

Design, like marketing, has everything to do with customer satisfaction.

These successes did not happen by accident. It takes vision, energy and commitment to embrace design in your business strategy.

But can you survive without it?