Design: The integrative force


Design offers a potent way to differentiate and position a company’s product and services as competition intensifies,. In increasingly fast paced markets, price and technology are not enough. Design is the factor that will often give a company its competitive edge. Design is the totality of features that affect how a product looks and functions in terms of customer requirements.

Design is particularly important in making and marketing retail services, apparel, packaged goods, and durable equipment. All the qualities we have discussed are design parameters. Designer has to figure out how much to invest in form, feature development, performance, durability, reliability, repair ability and style. To the company, a well-designed product is one that is easy to manufacture and distribute. To the customer, a well-designed product is one that is pleasant to look at and easy to open, install, use, repair, and dispose of. The designer has to take all these factors into account.

The arguments for good design are particularly compelling for smaller consumer-products companies and start-ups that don’t have big advertising dollars. That’s how one small brewery got noticed.


Before he started his company, founder Gene Muller sent Pentagram Design Company a case of beer bottles with blank labels and a note that said, “The space available for good think design.� He told pentagram partner Michel Beirut that he wanted something a breed apart from the usual mountain-range motif themes that everyone else seemed to be doing. The Pentagram design Muller liked most and picked for his start up was a fish-bone propeller plane. Flying Fish Brewing Company was born. Not only has the eye-catching image helped sell the beer, but the company’s merchandise sales (T-shirts, hats, and pint glasses) have been surprisingly strong especially at music festivals.

Certain countries are wining on design: Italian design in apparel and furniture; Scandinavian design for functionality, aesthetics, and environmental consciousness. Braun, a German division of Gillette, has elevated design to a high art in its electric shavers, coffeemakers, hair dyers, and food processors. The company’s design department enjoys equal status with engineering and manufacturing. The Danish firm Bang & Olufsen has received many kudos for the design of its stereos, TV equipment, and telephones.