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Author Topic:   will design become a commodity?
JOHN
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posted 12-31-2003 02:00 PM              Reply w/Quote
What do the pros this about this? will design become a commodity? Has it become one already for some products/economic markets?

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posted 12-31-2003 02:25 PM              Reply w/Quote
good design will never become a commodity.

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annie
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posted 01-02-2004 02:53 PM              Reply w/Quote
gloom & doom seems to abound regarding this subject of late...i've worked for more than a few sucessful corporations in my career and not one of them ever gave anything away for free...some might say they have, do or will...but they did not, do not and will not, ever...

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asusimonkwan
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posted 01-02-2004 04:14 PM              Reply w/Quote
Design, like most services and products in the Experience Economy, can and is being commoditized. The question to ask is not whether or not...because the answer is, yes. The real question is how can designers and firms keep from being commoditized or, at least, stand out from the crowd? In order to keep from being just another provider of the aesthetic component of a product's development and design, designers need to become more valuable. How do we do this? By embracing user-centered research methodologies, understanding branding and corporate DNA, keeping abreast of developments in materials, manufacturing, and electronics technologies, and promoting environmental and global responsibility in our work. The publicity ID has been receiving in the past few years is a double-edged sword. The benefit is that the public and corporate worlds are being more exposed to design and what designers do. That leads to greater recognition, appreciation, and valuation of our work... that should lead to better job security and opportunity for all of us. The downside is that much of the publicity surrounding ID has been focused on the visual, aesthetic component of design. Some of our better-recognized designers, such as Starck, Rashid, and Graves (yes, Graves is technically an architect, but so were many of the people behind some of our most cherished objects), produce a great number of products for the public's consumption. Target has made sophisticated design available to the masses. But these well known design 'divas' are really more like mass production artists. They give existing objects great and even innovative visual impact. But would you trust them to design a new surgical tool or an ergonomic, adjustable office task chair? How about reinvent the hospital emergency room experience? Nope, me neither. And there's the rub. The world needs designers who can truly innovate and develop products, systems, and experiences that truly address the needs and wants of all the potential users of a design. They also must be cognizant of the impact of that design in experiential, cultural, financial, and environmental terms. Your 'run of the mill' industrial design is pretty easy. That's why it's being commoditized. Real innovation, now that's a bit tougher. That's why firms like IDEO and ZIBA command the dollar rates and respect that they do. Companies and designers who can move beyond simply visual innovation and aesthetics will be the ones who really create something to be valued. To do that requires a lot more rigor, research, and discipline than some designers are willing or able to muster. Those who can and will, however, will not be able to be commoditized. They will be the ones to reveal the true value and potential of design. It's an exciting time to be an industrial designer, and I look forward to the time when the corporate world realizes that designers need to be on the executive board and at the head of every project and product development.

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hmmm . . .
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posted 01-03-2004 02:10 AM              Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by asusimonkwan:
Design, like most services and products in the Experience Economy, can and is being commoditized. The question to ask is not whether or not...because the answer is, yes. The real question is how can designers and firms keep from being commoditized or, at least, stand out from the crowd? In order to keep from being just another provider of the aesthetic component of a product's development and design, designers need to become more valuable. How do we do this? By embracing user-centered research methodologies, understanding branding and corporate DNA, keeping abreast of developments in materials, manufacturing, and electronics technologies, and promoting environmental and global responsibility in our work.

In an ideal world, your statements would be true, but our world is less than ideal.

Most companies are interested mostly in aesthetic solutions because they're the cheapest way to improve the perceived value of a product. If companies could sell turds for alot of money by simply painting them gold then they would. Real innovations are really expensive and therefore less desirable. Good case study of this is Apple company. They make some of the most innovative computer products, but own less than 2% of computer market because their computers are too expensive and are limited in choices.

Alot of designers would like to think that they are designing for the customer. To some degree that is true, but in reality you're only making something that will make a company alot of money. One thing I learned during my experience is that in many cases, designers have to design that a dealer would be happy with. Dealers are the ones who BUY products from a given company and then in turn sell it in their stores. Companies tend to bow to the wishes of a dealer because they have to sell their products to them in order to make profit. Most dealers I've met don't know sh-it about design and they don't care about it either... all they want to do is make as much money as possible. They're certainly not concerned about the company's image and they're only concerned about wellbeing of their stores, size of their inventory and the size of their wallets. If a given product ends up being a turkey, they can always point the finger of blame at the company that supplied the product and then convince the customer to get a similar product by a different brand.

So there it is... a little taste of reality. Going back to the original question, though, who cares if design becomes commoditized. The only thing that matters is whether they will pay bills for our work, come back for more business and in some cases give us a chance to move up the corporate ladder. I'd certainly would like to move up the corporate ladder . . . I sure as hell don't plan on being a just a designer forever.

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"."
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posted 01-03-2004 12:41 PM              Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by hmmm . . .:
In an ideal world, your statements would be true, but our world is less than ideal.

Most companies are interested mostly in aesthetic solutions because they're the cheapest way to improve the perceived value of a product. If companies could sell turds for alot of money by simply painting them gold then they would. Real innovations are really expensive and therefore less desirable. Good case study of this is Apple company. They make some of the most innovative computer products, but own less than 2% of computer market because their computers are too expensive and are limited in choices.

Alot of designers would like to think that they are designing for the customer. To some degree that is true, but in reality you're only making something that will make a company alot of money. One thing I learned during my experience is that in many cases, designers have to design that a dealer would be happy with. Dealers are the ones who BUY products from a given company and then in turn sell it in their stores. Companies tend to bow to the wishes of a dealer because they have to sell their products to them in order to make profit. Most dealers I've met don't know sh-it about design and they don't care about it either... all they want to do is make as much money as possible. They're certainly not concerned about the company's image and they're only concerned about wellbeing of their stores, size of their inventory and the size of their wallets. If a given product ends up being a turkey, they can always point the finger of blame at the company that supplied the product and then convince the customer to get a similar product by a different brand.

So there it is... a little taste of reality. Going back to the original question, though, who cares if design becomes commoditized. The only thing that matters is whether they will pay bills for our work, come back for more business and in some cases give us a chance to move up the corporate ladder. I'd certainly would like to move up the corporate ladder . . . I sure as hell don't plan on being a just a designer forever.


I tend to agree.

"How do we do this?" asusimonkwon forgets the following points (assuming you're not a student):

"By embracing user-centered research methodologies" - this is old news. But it's not often done. Why not? Time, money, and territory (among other things, perhaps). How many IDers get to spend real time doing real research; esp when Marketing shows up saying they have all the answers already? And when upper management agrees to more research, how is it normally done? Home visits, focus group tests, etc most likely. And who normally, within the corporation, organizes and runs those things? Marketing again. Which gets us to territory. As hmmm... points out, it's the dealers(buyers), that really call the shots. They've already told Marketing what they want. Some marketing person is going to be real hesitant to give up control of the research because it might get steered away from what the buyer wants. Marketing success is measured not by how wonderful the product is, but by maintaining a successful and lucrative account. I've seen research sabotaged based on what Marketing thinks a big customer wants. And I don't doubt there are others here who could share stories of how that influential buyer then dropped the order to go with another company that does something legitimate research would have yielded. I've got a few stories in that vein. Sad but true.

"understanding branding and corporate DNA" - this sounds like ID doesn't already understand it...

"keeping abreast of developments in materials, manufacturing, and electronics technologies" - again, this assumes IDers aren't doing this. But knowing all these things does not necessarily mean the company will use that information. IDers start to step on Engineering's toes here (more territorial issues) by bringing these things up. It can be done - and done without offense - but then you hit the "bottom feeder" mentality that's been fairly pervasive for a while. There aren't many companies ready to up their cost for a material change, esp when it's advantage is not quantifiable; an expensive but nicer-feeling material ain't gonna fly 9 times outta 10. There was a time when some companies got away with using better materials and processes because they were early adopters of going Asian and could afford the cost; but now that everyone's over there, it's back to watching pennies.

"and promoting environmental and global responsibility in our work." - good luck on this one. In case no one's noticed, environmental issues have been getting shoved aside lately in order to ease restrictions on manufacturing. If an IDer is going to propose an environmentally friendly solution, it'll have to do more than save the environment. Truth is, it gets lots of lip-service, but that's about it.

I don't have to like it, but that's how it generally is from where I'm standing.

btw, Happy New Year everyone.

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