Rethinking Redesign

Redesigning a beloved product isn't easy — just ask the team behind New Coke. Any new iteration must retain the essence of the original yet offer a jolt of innovation. We dissected a few recent redesigns to see how they measured up. Our expert rater: Julie Anixter, executive director for brand experience at design consultancy Lipson Alport Glass Associates.

What the New-Coke cans mean:

Revolutionary
Reputable
Remiss
Repugnant

Gerber Sippy snacker

The plastic spill-proof sippy cup: Kid drinks out of it, throws it to the floor, and repeats. What could Gerber possibly do to improve on this most basic concept? Plenty. "This thing is delightful," Anixter coos. Start with the colors. The soft purple, green, and orange have a magical, almost "storybook" feel, yet are bright enough to locate quickly deep within a baby bag. Anixter also loves the "anthropomorphic" shape that seems a natural extension of a baby's hand. Bonus: It snaps onto a snack-holding base.

Jenn-Air Attrezzi Mixer

Jenn-Air wanted to create a viable competitor to KitchenAid's iconic line of mixers. The result is impressive. "There's a purity to the form," Anixter says. "There are tremendous references to Venice and Italy, but it's also very future forward." One caveat: The look is a departure from Jenn-Air's traditional line, risking potential customer confusion.

Air France Uniforms

If ever there's an opportunity to convey a message about one's brand via design, it's in that trusty corporate artifact, the uniform. That's why Air France unveiled a new line of outfits in April designed by Christian Lacroix, one of Paris's most enduring designers. The uniforms have a clean, elegant, 1960s-inspired look, with details such as a blue scarf, a cinched waist, or a red sash that make passengers want to stand up and shout, "Vive la France!" Says Anixter: "Hiring Lacroix was brilliant," but Air France failed to fully capitalize. "In the end, it's far too understated."

Volkswagen 2005 Jetta

Volkswagen pitches its Jetta as "all grown-up — sort of." A truer tagline would be: "Looks like a Toyota — sort of." Whatever unique DNA once permeated the Volkswagen brand seems to be hemorrhaging away. "They've lost their edge, and this didn't bring it back," Anixter says. The new Jetta, which went on sale in March, does bring more creature comforts, a roomier backseat, and a large trunk. "But why," Anixter complains, "did they have to do it to the detriment of the car's look and personality?"

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