Industrial Design and The Branding Mad Men

It’s about time, the (M)Ad Men figured that out. Well they sort of did before and there always been Industrial Designers in advertising and branding. But much of the focus then was on packaging design, and Industrial Design was often seen as nothing more than skinning.
Core77 has a pretty good article called “Stepmothers of Invention: Branding Firms Enter the Industrial Design Fray“. While the article comes across a little wishy-washy at times as the author tries to play both sides, the central message is clear:

“…branding and ID are different sides of the same coin. We’re both satisfying the needs of the customer.” ~ John Winsor, Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

I have another take on this:

Design is the silent ambassador of your brand. ~ Paul Rand

Basically, nothing shouts your brand more than your logo/product/graphic/interface design. Therefore, designers need to understand the important role branding plays in Industrial Design, correction, in Strategic Design.
This is but one aspect of the design strategy that we need to consider before we start designing. In other words, one of the ingredients we would need so that the entire dish (or product) can come out right.
I’m no expert in branding, but this basic credo has always stuck with me, “branding is all about the product”. In today’s emphasis in authentic branding, the focus should be about the product or idea, and not the the other way around. Just look at Viao, iPhone and Playstation! Even better, if you want to build a great authentic brand ground up, build it around a product such as James Dyson did.

For something as focused and well-defined as a brand-building product design, hiring a few skilled designers to extend your service list can potentially work out, because the problem is so specific. When we look for examples of “authentic,” “innovative” design, however, we’re almost always looking at a different sort of team. The current poster children of innovation-spawned market success–the Wii, the iPhone, the Flip video camera–emerged from large groups of researchers, designers, engineers, programmers and manufacturing specialists who worked together for a long time, and knew both their brand and the applicable technologies intimately. This type of work cannot be emulated by assembling a team or hiring an agency and handing them a brand bible, no matter how good they are at their jobs.

However I’m quite please that the article got it right in the end. Many companies, not just the “poster children” have engaged such great development teams. Perhaps some more successful than others.
Now, that my friends, is what Strategic Design is all about. Welcome to the club!

9 Comments
  • jS

    October 6, 2008 at 12:23 am Reply

    Hi DT, i’ve been starting to follow your posts recently, and I must say they are truly inspirational and educational! Thank you!

  • DT

    October 6, 2008 at 12:34 am Reply

    Hi jS,
    Thanks for your kind feedback. Please keep in touch.

  • JIm Rait

    October 6, 2008 at 5:50 pm Reply

    If only life was that simple! Building a brand round a product gives you RAZR which is then not followed up with anything remotely successful! Viao started as a PC but has become a brand. The Palm was a product but breaking out as a successful brand eludes them. I think products are useful but only if they become a platform for future offers..see http://www.viadynamics.com/downloads/spur_1.pdf
    I find a better way to think of brands is to take them as a consequence of a customer Insight that leads to products that support the insight! The best communication of this strategic thought process can be understood from this video: http://snipurl.com/444t7 [www_betterbydesign_org_nz]
    It’s the experience that makes a brand not the product! RAZR’s follow-ups tried to be ‘cool’ but did not deliver the experience!

  • jS

    October 7, 2008 at 10:35 am Reply

    I thought the RAZR2 V9 is quiet good.

  • JIm Rait

    October 7, 2008 at 5:06 pm Reply

    I wonder what the sales figures are? Remember Michael Schrage’s comment “Innovation isn’t what innovators do….it’s what customers and clients adopt.” and Steve Job’s comment
    “[The G4 Cube] was not a failure of design,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “It was a failure of concept. We targeted the Cube at a professional audience. We thought they would rather have something small on the desk than expandability and we were wrong. It was a wrong concept “fabulously implemented.”
    And another view of RAZR v9: http://snipurl.com/4573l [pdasoftwareworld_com]

  • DT

    October 7, 2008 at 10:43 pm Reply

    Actually Jim, the original RAZR was a fantastic money making product for Motorola and was even touted as the product that brings back Moto’s ailing Mobile division. I don’t know the full story, (makes a great marketing case study), but my guess it was a combination of a lumbering corporate giant, and as you say a failure to capitalized on the product well.
    Perhaps it was not clear, but the few main points of my post, was that design communicates the brand values, design and branding is just one part of the mix and finally an authentic brand starts with a product that delivers what you promise.
    The G4 was missing the right consumer insight, and this on hind sight was the missing ingredient that illustrates my point above.

  • JIm Rait

    October 8, 2008 at 12:49 am Reply

    DT
    I agree with your comments… From my point of view the RAZR was a collaboration led by a division head where the top management of Motorola thought the second definition of collaboration applied…1. To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort
    2. To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one’s country
    So when RAZR became a run away success… they didn’t have the internal processes to understand the original insight and follow-up with another, which is more common than we imagine.
    A friend of mine, Chris Thompson at http://www.viadynamics.com puts it this way
    “Brands are made in the mind
    Products are made in a factory
    Design connects the two.”
    Your blogs are great because it really helps spark a dialogue to explore and understand what designing is all about!!

  • JIm Rait

    October 8, 2008 at 1:23 am Reply

    If you want to understand some more about the RAZR story try these links:
    http://snipurl.com/45ifb [money_cnn_com]
    http://snipurl.com/45iix [innovateonpurpose_blogspot_com]
    http://snipurl.com/45ikq [www_tmronline_com]
    http://snipurl.com/45iqw [news_cnet_com]
    and why are designer’s still trying to come up with a better phone see Alice Rawsthorn’s article here:
    http://snipurl.com/45iux [www_iht_com]
    Hopefully these will help to reinforce DT’s original post.
    Bill Buxton once described the whole affair of successful new product design as “Leading Innovation and managing design” which sums it all up really!

  • Industrial Design

    October 13, 2008 at 11:58 pm Reply

    Personally I think the whole mobile phone craze is getting way out of hand. I’m all for mobile technology developing and improving but when is it going to end? It started with calls and texts, then photos, games, applications, the internet! Whats next? ITS A PHONE!! ūüôā

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