Yesterday LaCie announced its latest hard-drive collab with a hotshot designer: Philippe Starck. At first blush, the results aren't bad:
Sure, Starck's had a 20-year love affair with silvery blobs combined with rectangular boxes, as his design for the Asahi headquarters proves. But never mind. This is an austere grey box, enlivened by a blob of silver. Looks decent. The best feature isn't actually in the pictures--the smaller of the drives is actually touch-sensitive, so you trigger an application with a short tap and a full back-up by running your hand along its length.
That's pretty cool. But step back, and the most attention-grabbing aspect of their design is actually the imprint "LaCie by Starck," complete with Starck's own logo. Now imagine if you never knew that a design all-star was behind the piece. Not so sexy anymore, huh? The LaCie drive is basically the product-design equivalent of a boring t-shirt emblazoned with ARMANI EXHANGE in rhinestones.
Now, design fans will recall that Starck has a history of pointlessly emblazoning his logo on some of his blandest designs. And he also has a history of laughably frivolous design.
But here, the Frenchman's pièce de résistance is that the larger drive actually projects his logo right onto your desktop.
That's kind of like an actor pausing to make an aside and saying, "Man, wasn't that awesome? That part where I was acting so awesome?"
LaCie has attempted this same sort of branding strategy with a few designers before (the designers' logos for the most part are hard to see in most of these views, but they're prominent nonetheless):
In every case, the design would be better if the designer's name was absent. After all, if you care about design, you'd have looked at the project description to see who designed it. And that betrays something about the way design is being sold today: Companies too often don't seem confident enough that the design can sell itself. So they try to make the designers into the equivalent of a fashion label.
But the better the design, the less that's necessary--Look around and name the best-designed thing you own. I bet the logo is vanishingly small. Good design sells itself, not the designer.