From consumer electronics to tableware, when it comes to industrial design, the market is highly competitive. To be successful at the point of sale, the design of the product is just one of several pieces of an overall design strategy.
Due to the globalisation and the increasing progress of technology, it is quite a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Though the product is the most important item, eye-catching communication design may be-come the crucial factor of differentiation that finally makes the consumer buy the product.
The packaging, for example, is way more than just a useful wrapping that protects the product. It can be used as a communication tool that makes the customer not only aware of its content and features, but also transports the image of the product. Lifestyle goods especially benefit from coherent storytelling, which perfectly connects consumer and product.
The worlds these products are trying to create can also be supported by smart packaging design. Companies like Apple follow a strict strategy, which perfectly fits into their design policy. The boxes of their electronic devices represent the company’s image of being a manufacturer of classy products with a minimalist design. The packaging already anticipates the slim silhouette of the content and once the box is opened, the product is directly standing in the spotlight. No brown cardboard and no countless sheets of bubble wrap disturb the customer’s view of it. For some people, opening the sealed packaging is a magic moment, as quite a number of unboxing videos on the Internet prove.
The lifestyle or philosophy transported through communication design is multifaceted. Commercials highlight certain aspects and turn them into emotional selling propositions, apps make the consumer interact directly and a clever packaging can also emphasise the product’s characteristics by using particular materials.
For instance, manufacturers of eco-friendly products improve their credibility if they consider their approach in their communications: with a biodegradable packaging, a corporate design with references to nature and sustainability or relevant poster campaigns. Smart communication design supports the product and wakes the customer’s desire of becoming part of the world the product represents.
During the jury sessions of the red dot design award in 2012, I witnessed how a holistic design strategy can become the road to success. The eyewear collection by Korean manufacturer Grafik Factory was awarded the red dot award: product design 2012. The independent jury was impressed by the glasses’ innovative adaptability. Appealing to the wearer’s playfulness, the frames can easily be adjusted to their individual mood. Only a couple of months later, a different jury evaluated the most outstanding achievements in the red dot award: communication design 2012 and once again it was the Korean company that overwhelmed the design experts.
The outstanding idea of how the packaging design presented the glasses was the reason why it was awarded the red dot: grand prix – the highest distinction of the competition. The faces on the photographs inside the box help making clear immediately how the glasses will look when being worn, thus allowing prospective wearers to connect with the brand. The entire appearance follows a simple and humorous approach that immediately attracts attention and perfectly works at the point of sale. These glasses definitely stand out.
Of course, not all purchase decisions are spontaneous and directly made in a store. For certain products, the addressing of potential customers begins earlier – with the help of a specific communication.
The automobile industry is a great example. They invest a lot in communication design and their trust in creative ideas usually pays off. Car manufacturers have to reach their target group via ads, billboards, TV-spots and the like as buying a new car is something that is well-considered by customers. Car companies have to find a way to make the customers want to explore their latest models and to get a taste of what it is like to be a part of the brand’s world. From SUV to sports car, every model represents a certain lifestyle that is transmitted by special communication activities.
Interactive design plays an important role in providing such information. Via websites or apps, customers can configure their individual version of a car online and thus identify with the brand and its values before buying the automobile. Those tools provide the opportunity to experience the product and its features in detail. With these insights into the world the company has created for its brand – spread via different channels – the keys to the car are the only thing missing before finally becoming part of it.
There are many different ways to combine top-class industrial design with a coherent communication design strategy. Sometimes it is even helpful to leave the road, to be courageous and to try something new, as long as it goes in hand with the story the brand wants to tell. In today’s globalised world, the importance of differentiation in the market is increasing. Design has to be considered as a unifier that combines high-quality products and creative ideas of communicating those innovations. Keeping this in mind, communication design is the thin red line that ties together the company, the brand’s identity and the product.
Thinking outside the box increases the process of creativity and constant interaction throughout the various fields of design leads to outstanding ideas. The fascinating world of design gets its strength through diversity and it is the most vibrant industry I can imagine. Day by day there are new things to explore and I am always pleased to see when companies follow a coherent design strategy and launch products on the market, with impressive functionality as well as smart communication campaigns.