Most product designers would agree that, on a philosophical level, the purpose of our profession is to solve important problems in effective and responsible ways, and products should only be designed and produced if they bring true value to someone. However, reality presents us with a different picture, and it is often difficult to stick to our values.
The perceived need of the market, the economic situation, new trends, etc., are all factors that influence our client’s decision making. Most executives are evaluated on a quarterly or yearly basis and have pressure to improve the bottom line, so it is natural for them to perceive priorities in different ways than designers do. The risk in this scenario is that it is easy to fall into a reactionary mode and create “me too” products that do not bring lasting value to the user (and most likely little return for the company).
We must engage in the design and creation of new products with a clear understanding of why we do it. What is the underlying reason for creating something new? Profit? Beating the competitor? Being the first? These are all valid reasons, but if what we create does not have true value—meaningful products that bring an advancement to the user and society—time, money and resources will have been wasted.
Our duty as designers is to ensure that our work has a positive impact on society and brings an honest benefit to the user. By advising our clients, and by balancing all factors and interested participants, we will end up with lasting solutions that are honest to users and society, and that our clients will profit from. Profit is the reason all companies are in business. At the end of the day, profit means to benefit from, and benefits can be attained in more than one way.