“Good design is good business,” IBM founder Thomas J. Watson famously proclaimed to a group of Wharton business students back in 1973. The wise words of this sharp businessman proved to be prophetic. When Watson took over as IBM’s chief executive in the late 1950s, he was determined to put his stamp on IBM through modern design. He quickly hired Eliot Noyes, a renowned architect and former curator of industrial design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, as the company’s design consultant, who promptly set out to instigate an aesthetic revolution in the world of corporate America. His overarching goal? To make IBM internationally recognizable based on a single, cohesive aesthetic. Noyes wanted to take IBM from beyond the realm of economics and into the realm of culture, to situate the business not as a vendor selling products but as a work of art with cultural significance.
“In a sense, a corporation should be like a good painting,” Noyes wrote. “Everything visible should contribute to the correct total statement; nothing visible should detract.”
IBM was the first pioneer to embark into this brave, new world, and proved to be tremendously influential. In the 21st century, design is now an absolutely crucial element of every business’ strategy. Virtually every major corporation and enterprise in today’s world — from Apple to Disney to Starbucks — situates itself in the IBM design legacy, using design as a core tool to express brand personalities and values. Here is how excellent design can dramatically improve your business.
Recognition. We’re guessing that if you see a green-and-white siren inside a green circle, you would probably immediately think “Starbucks,” even if the brand name was nowhere in sight. Similarly, you are probably inclined to automatically associate a large golden “M” with McDonald’s, while a black-and-white minimalist apple likely invokes thoughts of a Mac computer, ipods, ipads and range of other Apple products. Blue-and-white “G” and “E” typed out in vintage cursive letters immediately denotes General Electric, while the Nike swoosh instantaneously procures images of athletic apparel. The bottom line is that highly effective design will instantly garner your brand more recognition, which in turn enhances the visibility of your brand. Investing in high-quality brand and logo design today will inevitably pay off tomorrow.
Improved Communication. High-quality design facilitates more effective communication between your brand and your customers, and is subsequently a powerful form of advertising. For example, Apple has invested millions of dollars into crafting the perfect aesthetic. Today, the brand is internationally recognized for the sleek, simple, and elegant feel of both its products and its stores. The brand’s stark minimalist aesthetic is part of its signature and helps to convey brand values and personality to customers. This brand personality helps consumers to connect with a brand; they not only connect with a product on a utilitarian or economic level, but also on an emotional and cultural level.
Differentiate. The bottom line is that a unique and powerful aesthetic will help your products and your brand to stand out. Consider this: Roughly 75 percent of all consumer purchases are impulse purchases, and consumers typically make these decisions on a whim, most often in 20 seconds or less. A product that boasts excellent design will stand out from all other products, subsequently giving your brand the competitive advantage.