3 Seconds is all You Got for Your Designs to Sell!


Source: You-Did

Tic. Tock.
Tic. Tock.
Tic. Tock.
Three seconds.
That’s all you’ve really got to make the sale.
Source: The Irresistible Offer: How to Sell Your Product or Service in 3 Seconds or Less (Amazon Link)

In a blink of an eye, a potential buyer would have entered a store, quickly scan the different products on the shelf and then make a decision to engage with a particular product.
All this happens in just 3-5 seconds!
A product’s external housing is one of the first things a customer sees. This means for your designs to be successful, it will only have 3 seconds to capture the buying interests of your target customer. In today’s ultra competitive market landscape represented by information overload, saturated product offerings and competent competitors who can also do good design, ensuring that your design does this job well is no easy task.
So then how do you do it? Here is how I think it can be done.
1) Create a Unique Design Identity
Similar to a Brand, a unique design language or design identity is one of the strongest elements you can use to form attachments between your product and target consumer.
Key design details, such as strong silhouettes, unique button layouts and even materials or finishing can be “identity handles” that give your consumers anchor points to connect with your design.
BMW’s “flame surfaces”, the iPod click wheel and Coke bottle, are great examples of unique iconic designs that communicates what the product stands for without even the need for the brand’s logo to be present.
2) Strategic Designs that Communicate
Coming up with a great design identity is useless if the design language has no meaning behind it. It is not called a “language” for nothing.
A design language, in the true sense of the word, needs to be in a form that communicates what your product is all about.
You should aim for your design to communicate the product’s benefits to your target consumer. You should take this opportunity to visualize unique competitive or differentiation elements of your product may have. Best of all, you could take this idea to the next level by sculpting your language in such a way that it tells a compelling story.
3) Only Winning Designs may Apply
If all your great ideas for unique design languages don’t look good when they come together, you are probably not going in the right direction.
You need to continue to push your design work to ensure that it is the best work you can do, and what you come up with is truly a “winning design”.
The competitive marketplace is merciless and ruthless. There is really no space for design that falls into second or third place.
4) Not Just a Wow Factor, but a Meaningful Wow Factor
Coming up with a unique iconic language is only half of the story. It is important that it is meaningful to your target consumer as well.
Do your homework and to make sure that your design is a clear reflection of your market research and target market analysis. Make sure your target market’s needs and wants are accounted for in your design.
5) Consistency is the Key to Prosperity
Finally, to wrap it all up into that winning recipe, you need to add an ingredient of consistency.
Identifying the key design details or “identity handles” are important first steps, but the discipline to ensure that these handles are consistently executed over and over again is what will make it stick in the long run.
Repeated and consistent exposure of your design language to your target consumer, will allow them to slowly build a visual relationship with your product that will create a lot of design goodwill that can be leverage over and over again.
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I hope you enjoyed this post? I look forward to all your feedback and comments, or perhaps a different methodology you have found successful.

20 Comments
  • Raph

    March 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm Reply

    That’s if your potential buyer makes it to the store before deciding what they are going to buy! But if you are lucky and they haven’t made their decision, then DT’s points will definitely go a long way to helping them choose your product.
    I would like to add that now you have the design – start designing the experience the customer is going to have from the moment they purchase it…in fact try and design the experience so that it will have some affect (a positive one of course) on them before they even consider purchasing it, as you might then have a chance to beat the three seconds since the consumer will go straight to your product.
    Thanks for such a great article DT.

  • DT

    March 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm Reply

    Hi Raph,
    Thanks for your comments and sharing some of your insights.
    Actually it has been a proven fact that more than 50% of consumers will change their mind of their purchase intent when they enter a store. This is also when these consumers have already made up their mind what they want to buy!

  • pete

    March 19, 2009 at 11:02 pm Reply

    easier said than done….
    the world works in mysterious ways

  • CT

    March 20, 2009 at 1:01 am Reply

    I thought the BMW, iPod and Coke bottle had a lot more than 3-5 seconds with all the advertising etc.

  • Justin Moore-Brown

    March 20, 2009 at 8:09 am Reply

    A great great post!
    This is soo timely because we just locked a big rebranding client and it’s so key to understand how to help them sell to their clients through our work.
    I posted a couple more steps that round out the process! Would love for your feedback!

  • […] work that engages the viewer and captures their attention. The writers over at Design Sojurn made a list of how they think you can successfully capture your market’s attention and I think it’s […]

  • gwen

    March 21, 2009 at 1:51 am Reply

    love the post. It is true our time span for “eyeing” the products are shorter but most importantly good marketing within the product itself is definitely needed today. I think many industrial designers are neglecting to think marketing when they design.
    thanks for the book tip, i shall look in it.

  • […] 3 Seconds is all You Got for Your Designs to Sell! […]

  • zippyflounder

    April 14, 2009 at 4:28 am Reply

    In the land of big box retail your right, but lets not forget that when there is a sales person their personal enthusiasm can make all the difference. Sales people, much maligned by us designers need to be provided with the reasons to sell, give them good information, give them the emotional hooks that will bring your product out of the background noise.

  • Sharon

    April 16, 2009 at 11:07 pm Reply

    This is an excellent post. Of course, that the quality of the product should be good but I think that the quality of products and services people less worry. Good side of this is that the bed product will lose customers and quality offer will be emphasized.

  • Waikit Chung

    May 15, 2009 at 12:23 am Reply

    Good points Brian!
    I also believe that we designers should work closely with the marketing, in order to clearly communicate the philosophy and the meaning behind the design in advertising.
    And we designers should support the retail design in order to create an appropriate environment with the same design language or to emphasize it when possible.
    Sales people in the store should also be well trained in convincing talks that communicates the branding and design.
    Not all consumers understand products from the first sight, so in most situations they need to be educated by the sales people by their sale talks which can be the deciding factor whether to buy or not.

  • Danny Chhang

    May 15, 2009 at 4:56 am Reply

    Posts that posted before me all hit the nail on head. I also think Marketing, Salesmen, and Designers should all be intertwined ie apple. Great post Brian!

  • Arjan

    May 15, 2009 at 5:40 pm Reply

    Very interesting post. I think this has become more and more so since the internet. People get so much information to digest every day, it’s a self defense mechanism to make these snap judgements.
    In order to create the consistency in your product line and communication it is vital to understand how to translate brand values to product design. This is so for the look and feel of the product, but also on the features a product has, the packaging, the communication, the service, etc. By understanding the bigger picture a brand is about, these decisions can lead to the consistency you are looking for.

  • Niels

    May 21, 2009 at 8:30 pm Reply

    Dead on. In this information era we get exposed to so many messages and objects in a day that it becomes harder and harder to distinguish your design. Some nice leads to be differentiated, thanks.

  • Michael

    May 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm Reply

    This is a very interesting read…I remember one of my lecturers telling us this one day. It seems liek common sense when you think about it, but I guess we never really thought about it in that way.
    I remember we would go along to department stores and take photos of the product lines (without the stores knowing…they didn’t really appreciate us doing so) so we could superimpose images of our product on the shelves to see the impact it would have from the perspectiev of the consumer. Not a bad idea to really see how it manages to stand out (in a good way of course).

  • Michael

    May 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm Reply

    I’m just adding to my previous comment…I love the fact about how ingrained the “design language” is in successful brands so much so as the post suggests that a brand or logo isn’t even required for it to have that brand connection. I remember reading something about such brands, somethign like ‘complexity behind elegant simplicty’.I guess thats what you get with massive R&D and marketing budgets!
    Apple is such a good example of this…I remember reading an article about Apple and how it has like the next 10-15 years or so of product lines already fleshed out according to marketing trends, expectations and the like. It may have been an interview with Ive’s i’m not sure now. Now THAT is a company I would love to be a part of, or atleast have an insight into the workings and philosophy behind it all…

    • DT

      May 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm Reply

      Hi Michael,
      You have highlighted a key point about design today. Design has evolved beyond form giving. It is now form communications!

  • Ingo

    June 2, 2009 at 3:52 pm Reply

    Also I agree to the post in general I think there are some areas where you rethink your decision making more often and where, although you might fall in love with the design, you will buy a different product because it delivers better in other areas than design. I think it’s especially true in performance related decision where design becomes an accessories, a nice to have thing.
    Although, if products are almost equally good, design will make a difference for sure.

  • designnatin

    June 8, 2009 at 10:14 am Reply

    This is very good article about using design to sell products.
    3 Seconds is just a wink of an eye of the user…

  • […] are a few tips to get you going. Is your design good enough to stand out after you apply the 3-second rule? Is your design easy to understand or use when the customer engages your product superficially? Is […]

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