Design & Desire

From the Japan Times

My current mantra is design, design, design.

I am fixated on it. As I start to try to build a business I am absolutely focused on aesthetics and usability.

I am hopeful I can feature good product. Having good product is one part of the equation. Lots of competing businesses in any given industry feature the same products, which begs the question why, are some businesses more successful than others?

I think design is one of those reasons, the second part of the equation.

To me, good design is identified when no thought is required by the user. Everything is obvious, everything is intuitive, everything is as it should be. It’s so intuitive it’s almost organic, there is no feeling of manufacture or of a synthetic, man-made process.

The consequence then is that good design should be simple, so simple it isn’t even noticed or thought about. I suspect producing something so simple is actually very, very difficult and ironically has an awful lot of thought, manufacture and iterations of production.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of design for some time, trying to understand why some companies don’t really focus on it, why some place many resources on it and make it the soul of their being. The obvious example to look at was Apple, specifically Mac’s.

I chose Apple because I was trying to understand the concept of creating desire for product when it’s definitely not the cheapest in the market. To me this concept is paramount because if your product is desired then you have demand and will generate repeat customers. As a result the lifetime value of the customer increases.

The lifetime value of the customer is the most important metric in business valuation so far as I’m concerned.

Not so long ago in corporate world I asked some colleagues why do some people love apple mac books and not dell laptops?  They’re really the same thing, aren’t they?

Both laptops can have roughly the same spec, both are designed well, the Mac’s are more expensive.

So why do some people love Mac’s?

I don’t think the answer is straightforward. Partly it’s probably product, partly it’s to do with Apple’s brand being ‘cool’ and the almost romantic narrative of the iconic Steve Jobs journey but I also think it’s mostly to do with design.

I have a mac book air (which I am using to type this). Why did I buy it?

  1. I like the look of it.
  2. It’s quick – I don’t need to wait for a boot up
  3. I think it’s easier to type than on other laptops
  4. It’s light and portable
  5. I don’t need to worry about a virus
  6. The brand sucked me in, I wanted an apple mac.

You’ll notice price didn’t make the list. Apple products are not cheap yet it’s one of the most valuable companies on earth. It’s clear, price isn’t everything. Value is everything.

Value is made up of many factors not least brand but also product and design. Of the list above, I’d argue points 1 to 5 are all about design (admittedly, product and design are difficult to separate in this example). Only 6 is to do with advertising. Yet point 6 is what got my attention in the first place.  It’s difficult to overstate the importance of good marketing and advertising.

If you’ve got a great product with great design you’ve still got to tell people and to be successful you’ve got to create desire.

Not only must I continue to focus on design but also I know in future I’m going to need to tackle marketing and advertising, both will be new to me. I don’t think either are going to be easy processes.  I’ll have to ask for help and find some experts to guide me.

One of the most exciting elements of trying to start a business is learning. Everyday my eyes are opened to new ideas, thoughts and concepts. I hope this continues.


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