Jun 5, 2010

Instilling a Design Ethic

Design is a nebulous term. At its most trite description, it’s a practice of making things beautiful. I don’t share this sentiment though. Great design is functional. It solves problems. It is aesthetically pleasing, because great designs solve problems simply and elegantly.

The 1971 Jaguar E-Type was voted the most beautiful cars of all time by the Daily Telegraph. Every curve of the E-Type seems purposefully designed to make the car faster and more aerodynamic. Anything that could slow down the car like wings, fins and scoops have been removed. The E-Type is an elegant, purposeful car that was years ahead of its time. That’s why it is so beautiful, even by today’s standards. Jaguar clearly brought out its design ethic in the E-Type.

A design ethic is an organization’s commitment to design products and services in simple, purposeful and elegant ways. Another example of a firm’s design ethic is the Coca-Cola contour-bottle. In 1915, Coca-Cola had a competition to create “a bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.” Coca-Cola understood the value of design, and how creating a distinct bottle would elevate their brand’s connection with its customers. Today the contour-bottle is an icon.

Your design ethic reflects your brand personality

Your design ethic is an expression of your company. It demonstrates your values and interests.

When you examine your products and services, do you feel pride? Are you proud to talk about your products’ construction, their function and their design? If not, why?

Being proud of your firm’s design ethic clearly enhances your brand. It gets your employees committed to something larger than themselves, and it lets your customers know you have something special. It’s about bringing back craftsmanship to business.

Set out to find your design ethic

What is the design ethic of your firm?

This is another one of those deep, introspective questions. It requires exploring your firm’s values, purpose and personality, and developing a heightened self-awareness. That self-awareness is the secret sauce to finding your design ethic, and expressing your company’s values in a meaningful way.

Remember, design is not about making things pretty. It’s about achieving simple, elegant solutions to complex problems. It’s about approaching your business with a commitment to developing well-designed products and services. That commitment in itself will set your brand apart.

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