How Apple and Others Turn Design Into Profit

“Design isn’t merely about making products aesthetically beautiful,” writes Jay Greene, a former BusinessWeek staffer, in Design Is How It Works. It’s about “creating experiences that consumers crave”—thus building brand loyalty and finding new markets. Does it really work? Ask Steve Jobs, who supplied Greene’s title.

How early do designers need to be involved in product development? One of the great misconceptions is that design is a glossy sheen put on a product at the end. The companies that do it best have designers—and other folks who shape the product, like ethnographers and ergonomists, get involved early on, at the very beginning.

The TSA is working with a design firm now. What are some other unlikely collaborations? Umpqua, a bank in Oregon, has spent a lot of time with Ziba Design on their branches—things like setting dog bowls outside to make them more friendly. Deposits have jumped fairly dramatically. You see that not just tangible products benefit from design.

Another company investing heavily in design is Ace Hotel. It’s funny, Porsche uses design to extract a premium. Ace uses it to keep costs in check—getting furniture from flea markets and garage sales. They prove that design can work in the midmarket.

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