Aesthetics in consumer buying


In this article we are giving the practical growth aspect how South Korea has become a leading Industrial country not only in Asia but even the world. The reasons are that they started offering aesthetically designed products with quality to consumers. But 12 years ago things were different. The world outside Korea didn’t think much of its capabilities.

This was a reality that pushed chairman Lee Kun Hee into a lot of travel, endless introspection and long conversations. The outcome: He was convinced that if the future had to be captured, it would have to be on the back of design, because designers understand the consumers more than any other functional head in a company. For that reason alone, Samsung’s design centre was shifted from a small city in Suwon to the capital Seoul. American design firm IDEO was hired to collaborate and train the people in designing of the products. Since then, the trained team has spent a few thousand hours in various parts of the world—including India—with a single point agenda to understand the reasons that compel a consumer to buy up a product.

The insights they gained translated into products that met with runway success. Product design aspects were considered with so much importance that even engineers at the company now concede ground to designers.

Seoul is in Samsung country that is South Korea. Every road in the city eventually leads to a building or factory with hoardings on it that screams Samsung. Inside each of the facilities are the company foot soldiers who assault the world each day with products that scream even louder for attention. Earlier outfits depended and copied Japanese designs.

Now leading the charge is the company’s design team which has turned its fortunes round on its own merit which is nipping hard at Sony’s heels. The company routinely sweeps every design award in the world.

Take a very recent laser printer built by Samsung. On the drawing board, the designers argued that consumers like printers in which the paper lies flat. Engineers argued building a model where the paper is fed vertically makes more sense because it drives production costs down 10%. In the past, engineers would have won the battle. The management arbitrated in favor of design. The engineering core was stunned.

The move wasn’t without precedents. At Bang & Olufsen (B&O), a Danish electronics company with a cult following, engineers build only after the designer reckons it meets a certain set of standards. The steel frames around television sets—are brushed horizontally on the horizontal side and vertically on the vertical side. At B&O, it is brushed only vertically points out a company spokesperson. The reason is that the design considerations recommend it that way as it enhances the aesthetic value of the product even though it drives costs higher. Incidentally, Samsung’s printers are selling well.

Global designs

Designing for the global consumer is fairly complex. At Yahoo! India’s offices a significant part of Yahoo’s instant messenger is designed. Designers face a unique problem. In a country like China, red is considered sacred. For the rest of the world, it signifies danger. Getting around issues like this need, not just engineers who understand algorithms—but designers who can work with ethnographers and sociologists who understand communities.

The best designers make mistakes too. At B&O for instance, they grapple with engineers on what kind of technology ought to go into a product. The cellular phones that it ships sport only basic functions—make and receive calls and store a few telephone numbers. Cameras, which are now considered, de rigueur on phones, are excluded. The designers think phones are meant to talk with and that too much technology can complicate life. Their phones apparently, offer crystal clear voice quality. So, far so good!

With good design houses, mistakes like these are rare. Instead, the pay-off for focusing on enhancing a customers experience is high.

Starwood Hotels for instance, owns brands like Sheraton, designers working on the rooms, spent a lot of time thinking of something called the ‘exhale’ moment. That is the moment when the guests walk into a room, close the door, put their bags down and take a first look at their room. They figured that if the beds are big and plush, customers exhale with delight. To create that one moment, Sheraton allowed their designers to spend $800 million on new beds.

That is how the aesthetics play a significant role in consumer buying in addition to convenience in usage, good quality and functions.