Apart from the crowd
Is it style that sets Apple apart from the crowd, or Harley Davidson, or Porsche, for that matter?
No, it is not style, although style plays an integral part in all of those examples. It is emotional attachment. Why would you pay double for a motorcycle over what the competition can sell you.
A Honda is roughly half the price of a Harley Davidson for a very similar motorcycle. And Apple products are not exactly the lowest price in town either. But through design, not just the design of the product, but design of the product and the experience of ownership, there is an attachment to the product that transcends a commercial exchange of goods for money.
What makes buying a car so exciting? It’s the emotional excitement of the look and feel and aroma of the new car. You feel part of that is an extension of yourself, a statement. That new car smell, that is really off-gassing of rubber, paint and carpet adhesives that we smell, but we have come to associate that with sleek, new and excitement. The automobile industry misses the target by a mile with their approach to customer relations by the way, by not designing the experience of the purchase of the car to be a pleasant experience as well. One of the companies will get it someday. Watch what happens if one of the companies ever gets a visionary designer to look at the whole ownership process. That company will knock the socks off the market.
But I digress.
Design has at least as much to do with process as style. It is establishing the contact with the end user, and setting the stage for the development of a relationship between the user and the product. One that develops brand loyalty. There is nothing wrong with hiring a designer to design a product, and then once that product is in production, waving good bye to the designer and thinking, thank heavens that’s over. Except what you have just done is focused on the product and thinking of design as a coat of paint. Something that is applied to the product to make it more palatable, and maybe sell more that you would have if design had not been involve at all. Maybe used an in house committee to do product design. There is an old saying that a camel is a race horse designed by a committee. The result is a lot of compromises and pet ideas that might be alright, but they serve only to make bland and unemotionally attached product. Let me know if you can think of an example of a huge success for a committee designed product, I would really like to know about that.
While I believe that there should be a design team that involves all interested parties (oh how I hate the word stakeholder) there should be a design leader who has a vision but not an over riding ego. That is a tough act, you have to be committed to the vision but not let ego get in the way of good suggestion and rational thinking. What I am saying is that a good designer, the person with that discipline must also be a great leader. That great design is not just product focused but rather a vision of product to ownership experience. When both product and experience are done well, that is what great design is all about.
So to sum it all up.
That is what design is all about, not just the way something looks, but the way a person feels about the ownership of the product.