Thursday, December 15, 2011

Design: The secret ingredient behind Great Brands

Graphic Design Blog

When you first start using a product, go to a new store, get a new add-on to a computer or camera, it doesn't take long to figure out if the designers actually spent time using the product. Design doesn't end at aesthetics. When you get behind the wheel of a well designed car, you know immediately that the design team has spent countless hours on aesthetics, but also touch, smell, maneuverability, usability and so much more. Apple does this as well. Take a look at how well their products work, whether it's design, programming or usability, and you'll agree.

Great design inspires and delights; it triggers followers and fans, repeat business and word of mouth recommendations. Some brands do this well, and others do not. This is no more evident than when you walk into a Target store as I have done three times in the past few weeks. Target has branded itself well in some ways, even painstakingly well. People like to shop there because they can get awesome stuff for their homes, closets and anything else at an affordable price. They're completely aware of the design of their products and customer perception...right? Not totally. Their attention to detail stops at the checkout lane.

There is an enormous amount of Target items that are lacking a bar code and as we all know, an item without a bar code can spell disaster for a smooth checkout experience. The poor cashier has to call for help, then explain the situation, then have somebody go find this item in the store to determine the price of it. Meanwhile, you're getting glared at by the people in line behind you for holding up their days. This brings to mind such things like, 'I should've gone to Walmart' or 'Kohls' even. This line of thinking can spell disaster for Target if they don't fix this issue.

This brings to light other things about design: flow, user experience from start to finish, and attention to detail. Sure the product is designed well, but how does it perform in its environment. The simple omission of the bar code, and the inability of the cashier to identify a product without that bar code makes the millions of dollars Target has spent building up its brand image turn to dust in an instant. Not just for myself, but for the people waiting in line behind me.

The Lesson: Design isn't limited to the product itself. The entire user experience must be taken into account. Apple didn't just design a great laptop or music player. They designed the entire experience of buying the products, to opening the products, to setting up the products and even how you get your products fixed. The entire system is designed around one thing: user experience. 

If you're finding your customers are becoming unhappy with one particular area of your company, assess what exactly is happening there. Do they have to wait hours before getting a reply from your customer service department? Are their business cards difficult to write on? Try to step into their shoes and figure out what will work best, on top of providing great design.

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