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Steven Chen, CSUF Mihaylo College of Bus/Econ  

Click here for Steven Chen's Bio

Thursday, April 09, 2009
Design and the product life cycle
The age of design


It was as if Big Business woke up from a mutual slumber at the turn of the millennium and proclaimed, in unison, “Let’s do design!” The echo of this proclamation is now everywhere. Check out these current corporate philosophies and campaigns:

  •  “Design for All” – Target
  •  “Democratic Design” – IKEA
  •  “We make sure great design ideas live on to become ultimate driving machines.” – BMW 
  •  “Less is More” – Apple
  •  "Building high-performance, easy-to-use and beautiful products with a distinctive Sony flair." – Sony
We live in an age of design: Retail stores are now lavishly designed spaces that encourage customers to stay with captivating sights and sounds. Products are beautiful, shiny and packaged in such as way that the best part of buying it is opening it up. Ads are creative forms of entertainment that consumers seek out – no longer things to be fast-forwarded and passed up.

Design goods command premium prices because they fulfill consumer desires as opposed to utilitarian needs. In other words, design has infiltrated and taken over the four pillars of marketing – distribution, product, promotion and price.



Why design? Why did Big Business do this? First, companies recognized that they can no longer compete on price alone, and that it was necessary to provide products that provided functional, aesthetic and emotional value for consumers. One way to achieve this was through design. Through design, companies believed they could attract customers by offering products that not only worked, but were also pretty and provided emotional enjoyment.

Second, some companies believed that the incorporation of design into the overarching marketing strategy was necessary to be successful. This is taking design and applying it beyond the product level and into the brand and service levels. The poster child for this is Apple. Apple’s “Less is More” philosophy not only applies to iPods and Macs, but it also impacts every aspect of its marketing mix, product development processes and organizational structure of the firm. Now, Apple is the design maven of big business, and everyone is trying to emulate it.

The admittedly fuzzy concept of design will be the central focus of this blog. Future postings will feature topics about design in the business world, reactions to current events regarding design, case examples, green design, relevant design history and design strategies. It is my hope that readers will take away something design-related that could give them an edge in this crowded marketplace.