Over the past decade, driven by an ever-more sophisticated consumer, design has gone from being a bonus to being an essential ingredient in almost every market sector.
Target earned itself a spot on Fast Company’s 2008 Fast 50 list by hiring designers like Michael Graves to bring design to the masses. Motorola shook up the world of cell phones with the Moto Razr. Consumers have evolved far beyond accepting products based on function alone. They’ve developed a hunger for design and even the current financial crisis isn’t going to cause them to lose their appetite.
Companies that don’t invest in design will inevitably find themselves dead in the water. To succeed today, you need consumer insight and design strategy to predict when and where the wave will peak, and you need design to propel your brand and put you in the right position to capture the market, just as the wave breaks.
Hyundai is an amazing example of using design to catch the wave of demand. It wasn’t long ago that Hyundai was a punch line for the late night comics. Its brand image was low price, low value. But in the past half-dozen years, Hyundai has used design to turn that image on its head.
To be sure, this transformation could not have been accomplished with design alone. First, Hyundai improved the quality of its product line across the board. But Hyundai also understood the evolving consumer. It had watched Target’s example and knew that now, even bargain-hunting consumers crave design. So Hyundai invested in building a new design center and set about connecting with consumer aspirations. The results have been nothing short of astounding. In January, the Genesis won Hyundai its first North American Car of the Year honor.
Read more of Ravi Sawhney’s Design Reach blog
Ravi Sawhney is the founder and CEO of RKS, a global leader in strategy, innovation, and design.
Since founding RKS nearly 30 years ago, Sawhney has earned a variety of top honors in the design industry, and assembled a client list that includes HP, Intel, LG, Medtronic, Seiko, Sprint, and Zyliss, among many others. In the process, RKS has helped generate more than 150 patents on behalf of their clients.
In 2004 Sawhney was named chairperson of the Industrial Design Excellence Award program, where he created the IDSA/BusinessWeek Catalyst award for products that generate measurable business results. Most recently, he was named Executive Director of Catalyst to direct its evolution into a program to develop case studies illustrating design’s power to effect positive change.
Sawhney also invented the popular Psycho-Aesthetics® design strategy, which Harvard adopted as a Business School Case Study. He is a regularly featured lecturer at Harvard Business School, USC’s Marshall School of Business, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Business, where he teaches this business-driven design tool.
In addition to RKS, Sawhney has played an integral part in the founding of several other businesses, including Intrigo, an innovative computer accessory company; On2 Better Health, a health products company; and RKS Guitars, best known for its reinvention of the electric guitar.