Understanding the Benefits of Good Design
Good design does not just consider the aesthetics of a product, it considers every element of a product from its initial inception and manufacture, throughout its lifetime and right up to the point at which it is disposed or recycled. As Dieter Rams once said “good design is as little design as possible: less, but better; because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity”. The following examples highlight some of the benefits of good design practices.
Innovation is a term that is overused and often misunderstood within the industry. An innovative product is one that is significantly different to those that came before it or is even the first of its kind. In some cases, a “super innovation” may be so far ahead of the market that it is a failure when launched, but a huge success 10 years later. Recent history has shown that innovative products out perform others in the marketplace – the Dyson range of vacuum cleaners reinforces this. An innovative product has a distinct and coherent selling point that benefits the user in ways that they had not previously experienced.
Good design is aesthetically appealing. The aesthetics of a product attracts a customer to engage with it in the first instance. This is a subjective area of product design; however, a quality aesthetic is often clean, uncomplicated, relevant and unobtrusive. Some consumers value form over function and are willing to accept an average performing product if they feel the aesthetic is exceptional. Equally, some consumers are willing to accept a poor aesthetic if product function is superior. However, the most successful products are strong in all areas of design.
A product that performs well and exceeds the expectations of the customer often gains a strong reputation. Function is considered as fulfilling the main purpose of the product and doing so consistently throughout its life-time. Products that offer improved functionality can be easier to use, perform a task faster, or perform more efficiently than its predecessors. Life-span is also considered a part of a products function; for example, a dish washer would have an expectancy of 10-15 years, if after 2 years the dish washer stopped working, it would be perceived to be poor performing and unreliable. Average life-span is dictated by the performance of similar products within the market.
It is especially important that products intended to be sold in to the consumer market are intuitive. This means that the user will be able to engage with the product after very little or no explanation. This can be achieved by understanding how a user would interact with such product. For example, when designing an interface, commonly used controls may be larger in size than less used controls; buttons clearly labelled with text or internationally recognised symbols and colour correctly applied to communicate safe (green) or unsafe (red) features. Intuitive products offer an enjoyable and convenient experience for the user.
A sustainable product does not necessarily mean that it is manufactured from a bio-degradable material. It simply means that the source, application and disposal of the materials used have been considered. For example, when designing a product using plastic, it is critical to ensure that the product is built from as few parts as possible, limiting material usage. It is also critical to ensure that all parts can be disassembled from the product and are clearly identifiable so that they can recycled or disposed of in the most environmentally friendly way. Certain manufacturers operate a zero waste policy, which means that their product and all of the waste generated in the production of that product has a secondary use.
Good design is profitable – this is not just because the customer is willing to pay a premium for a well designed product, but because good design brings unrecognised business benefits. For example, a product that has been designed with the manufacturing and assembly process in mind could be much more efficient to produce than a product that hasn’t considered these elements. For example, a single product may take an operator 1 hour to assemble; after designing-out awkward areas of product assembly, the operator time reduced to 40 minutes per product. Ultimately lowering the cost of labour per product for the manufacturer.