The industry as seen by top designers.
DESIGNING THE LIFE OF A PRODUCT
Without good design, there are no sales.
by Lynda Musante and Tracia Williams (July, 2003)
Our industry does not create, develop, or sell the necessities of
life -- things like milk, laundry detergent, or toilet paper. So,
what factors lead to the success of products consumers don't need?
What makes certain products profitable for retailers? The key is a
combination of the quantity and quality of designs a
manufacturer invests in marketing the product.
Consumers don't have to have our products, but they enjoy
creating projects. When our consumer crafts something, that project
becomes a heartfelt expression, such as a handmade gift for friends
or family. Creative expression and a sense of accomplishment are
necessities for the human spirit. And recipients of a handmade gift
often treat that project as an heirloom.
The big challenges are these: 1. How to stop the consumer who
is breezing by an in-store display, often with a screaming kid in
her cart? 2. Then, how to inspire the consumer to pick one
product rather than a competitor's? How does Company A sell its
paint that is adjacent to the racks of its competitors? What makes
Company B's yarn appear to be better than the others?
It boils down to education, advertising, and most importantly ...
DESIGN! We must educate our consumers by featuring well designed
projects in books and magazines, classes, and demonstrations -- in
stores and on television.
Advertising that showcases well designed projects inspires consumers
to realize the potential creative experience, and provides those
busy consumers with ideas that will compel them to put the product
in their carts. Nobody buys a bottle of paint, no matter how pretty
the packaging, to display in a bookshelf.
Packaging design does play a key role in conveying a message to the
consumer and helping the consumer choose Company A's paint instead
of Company B's. Buyers say the front of the package has to tell the
story. You can't depend on a consumer to read the back of the
product label. Your product on shelf gets less than 10 seconds of
consideration if the packaging doesn't grab the consumer's
attention. Especially if your company is releasing a
"Me-Too" type of product, quality designs will lift that
product's sales over the originally introduced item -- we've seen it
happen time and again.
Ultimately, project design inspires the consumer to try the product.
Today's retailers do not have the resources to educate their staff
on every new product when it is introduced to the store. They rely
on the manufacturers and designers to work together to fill this
gap. Even so, retailers need to invest in design as well.
Demonstrations, classes, project sheets, and websites will not
succeed without well designed projects. A well designed project
inspires consumers to say, "I could do that," and "I
want to do that."
It's this simple: Just how much do you expect consumers to figure
out by themselves regarding the usages of your product?
Too frequently, designers receive little and/or low compensation or
recognition for their contribution to the success of a product.
Often manufacturers cut advertising and design budgets when business
is slow; we propose this logic should be reversed. When business is
poor, what better time to inspire consumers to purchase your
Good designers make it their business to create original,
innovative, and inspiring designs for their clients and for
consumers. There are many similar products in our marketplace. Time
and again, it's the designs, the packaging, and the advertising that
can jump start a product's sales.
Often, it's design that creates trends or fads. In fact, good design
partnered with good products will keep those trends from becoming
The companies in our industry who support quality design and
designers may have their ups and downs, but generally enjoy great
If you're attending the ACCI show this month, don't forget to
visit The House That Crafts Built. It's four rooms decorated
by some of the industry's top designers -- all members of the Society
of Craft Designers.
(Note: Any comments you'd like to share with Lynda and
Tracia? Any suggestions for topics for future columns? Contact them
at Lynda Musante, Nifty Development Corp., Richmond, VA: Lsmusante@aol.com
Tracia Williams, Tracia & Company Inc., Orlando, FL: Traciaw@earthlink.net)