15th April 2021

The responsibility of design

The late Steve Jobs was known and will always be remembered as a pioneer of technological design. Whether you’re an Apple lover or a Windows aficionado, you can only admire how Apple’s products made a name for themself, not just for design and functionality, but for creating a lifestyle built into the brand itself.

Apple plays into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs perfectly; it helps consumers feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves, which is the weight brands are now afflicted with.

Design is more than basic functionality

When we’re referencing how design works, we’re not just talking about the basic functionality of design; we’re talking about how it works in our world. Designers are burdened with creating a ‘design’ that not only looks amazing but reflects a brand’s ethics, slots into an ever-evolving society and works on every level for the intended consumer.

Societal expectations are high, and brands are judged more so than ever before, rightly so, in some cases, particularly where sustainability and responsible material sourcing is concerned. With the immediacy of social media and the hidden world of keyboard warriors where accountability for harsh criticism is non-existent, designing something without critique is virtually impossible. Design has the responsibility, not just with aesthetics, but with the weight of expectation.

How can brands navigate this minefield? By crafting a design that supports the customer experience and exudes real value.

Throw away the aesthetics for now and focus on deciphering clear signalling and understanding the customer journey from start to finish.

An example of failed design

Let’s look at a real-life example. In March 2021, new EU Energy Efficiency Ratings were introduced. Buying a fridge before this date meant the energy efficiency chart was labelled A+++ to D. Customers knew that A+++ was the most efficient — we’ve been used to it for many years.

But if you buy a washing machine in April, appliances are now rated A to G. So, a B-rated washing machine in April was more energy efficient than an A-rated fridge in March.

You can see the confusion.

The user experience does not appear to have been thought through — design should not be this confusing for the customer. Great design should support the customer and build on the consumer-brand connection.

What could they have done differently?

Firstly, they could have focused on an entirely new rating system, perhaps changing the metric to 1,2,3 — just like the UK Department for Education did for GCSE grades. There was also the opportunity to put into place some clear communication to help consumers transition to the new system, not just leave them to figure it out themselves.

Design has a responsibility to help people understand information, regardless of what that information is. If it isn’t clearly understood, it’s poorly designed.

Need a helping hand?

We partner with brands to help them communicate who they are, what they do and ultimately fulfil their business goals. We use our Connect in Full™ methodology to help brands create meaningful connections with their consumers, ultimately driving long-term growth.

We’re here to ensure brands connect with their customers at every level. Brands can lose their focus and move away from their original, authentic origins.

Danone is a heavyweight in the food industry, one of its leading brands, Activia, had moved away from its core benefit. They had 30-plus years of gut health expertise behind them, but they’d forgotten to remind customers that they were the original gut health experts. We worked with them to develop their packaging design focusing on drawing the busy consumers’ eye to their key benefit and reasons to buy –  “show your gut some love” by putting what the brand stood for front and centre.

Read more about Connect in Full™ methodology and how it can help transform the connection between your brand and its consumer.