« Back to Blog August 3, 2015 | Branding

Design Swings the Pendulum

Does Design Matter?

Designers often feel that design is the be-all and end-all of any project. It is their role after all. But does design really affect the success of a product or company? Isn’t a good product enough to find success in the marketplace?

How Does Design Affect My Product?

There are 4 different combinations that a product can fall into. You either have a good product or a bad one, and either good design or bad design.


Now we will examine the effects of falling in to each square, staring with the worst, to the best.

Bad Design / Bad Product

A lose/lose situation. Not only is this product unappealing to potential customers, it won’t deliver on the promises it makes. There is no redeeming quality here. Companies in this situation will not be around long. It’s hard to come up with a good real world example of a product like this because they aren’t something anyone bought more than once.

Good Design / Bad Product

Miller Light has some beautiful retro design work on their beer cans, but it’s product is shunned by most people who care about beer. MillerCoors brews cheap beer that can be drank at parties. (Bad parties in my opinion.) They serve a purpose in the marketplace, but I’d argue that the people buying their beers don’t have any real brand loyalty. They’ll grab whatever 30 rack is on sale.

When you rely on design to sell your product, you are constantly chasing for your customer’s attention. You can never rest. You need to move from one gimmick to another in order to keep people interested in a mediocre product.

When you use good design to sell a bad product, your success depends on your ability to continue tricking people. And that isn’t sustainable. (Unless you’re a company the size of MillerCoors, that is.)

Bad Design / Good Product

So many small businesses fall in to this category. Design is seen as an extravagance they cannot afford, so they opt for sloppy, cheap design work. (How many work vans are driving around your town with horrible logos? There are certainly a lot around me.)

These companies do good work, but their appearance doesn’t match the quality of their services. Success can come without good design work, but it’s an uphill battle. You need to convince each potential customer that you are better than you look.

Good Design / Good Product

This is the territory of the most successful companies in the world. Brands like Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and so many others value design highly even though it’s value is intangible.

Setting personal opinion aside, these brands all put out good products that people want. On top of that, they all incorporate great design in to just about everything they do. The one-two punch that beautiful design and a product people want results in nearly limitless potential.

Why Design Matters.

In each of these instances, it wasn’t design that determined whether or not a product failed or became successful. It was the product itself. The quality of a product is always the determining factor in a product’s success.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but who are you really fooling?

Design helps good products get found and, more importantly, bought. A well designed product instills confidence in the consumer, even if they don’t realize it. If your product looks the part, people will buy it on faith. It’s up to you to make sure that your product delivers on that promise. It’s your designers job to make sure that promise is clear.

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