The recent discussion about Debbie Millman has yielded some very thought-provoking issues. It has also bummed me out, because there is more than a grain of truth in Millman’s perspective. She comments, “If people all over the world choose this particular Burger King logo because they liked it, and you personally don’t like it, does that mean it is bad design?” It’s easy for us to debate good vs. bad design, but it’s difficult to ascertain concrete benefits of good design. Is good triumphing over bad? How can you tell?
Well I’ll tell ya, it doesn’t look good. Here are two examples of how “good” design is affecting consumerism:
1. Apple’s product design: Revolutionary. Astounding. Most recognized and most imitated product design of the past 20 years. But how has it affected sales? Apple’s share of the personal computer market is still a pathetic 5%.
2. Target merchandise: Graves kitchenware. Starck bathroom toiletries. Some of the most stylish and progressive commercials on TV. But despite the emphasis on design, Target is getting their ass kicked by Walmart — officially now the world’s largest company.
As designers, we are faced with making visual choices for consumption on a daily basis. Those decisions are as much a result of our own needs and values as much as our clients’, and ultimately, the consumers’. But are we truly designing with consumers’ tastes in mind, or are we designing what we think is “good” and mandating that consumers take what we give them? Is that unrealistic idealism and elitist of us?
And ultimately, should good design lead to more sales? Or is it just incidental — leave 100 well-designed packages and 100 badly-designed packages on a shelf at Walmart, and eventually both will be equally consumed. Does it really matter which package design was consumed faster?
How does “good” design affect consumerism? Give me some concrete examples and back it up.