Blog: knowtheweb

Be just a little different...

November 2011 penguin-dude
Managing business in a rapidly changing world
“These are extraordinary times. In our work, our lives, and everything in between we are witnessing change that is so fast and unpredictable that our first challenge is simply to make sense of it.”

Recently, I picked up Alan M. Webber’s excellent book, Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing your Self.

Alan Webber is the co-founder of Fast Company magazine, known as one of the fastest-growing business magazines in U.S. history. He begins the introduction to his book with these words:

“These are extraordinary times.

“In our work, our lives, and everything in between we are witnessing change that is so fast and unpredictable that our first challenge is simply to make sense of it.”

How true. Change is all around us, not only in the development of new products, but also in politics, the economy, business, culture and society in general.

Knowtheweb - understanding the new rules

Our newsletter, Knowtheweb, will explore these changes and innovations and try to make sense of them as much as possible, especially as they relate to our businesses and our lives.

We will cover a lot of topics, and not surprisingly, design will be of particular interest. Let’s understand what it is, why it’s important, and how we can use it to further our goals.  

Getting back to Webber, he continues in his introduction, that:

“Entire industries have awakened to discover that they need to adapt, transform, or become extinct...leading thinkers around the world are seriously discussing new...rules for the future of capitalism.

Good design is good for business

One of the new rules he discusses is about design. Simply said,Great design wins.” Great design is the differentiator that many companies use to stand out in a crowded marketplace. For example, a client of ours in the electrical services industry wanted their company’s logo to be anything but yellow and blue because these colors are so often used by electrical services companies. They wanted to be different, and finally chose orange as their logo color – completely distinct and instantly recognizable – it helped them stand out from their competitors.

Design can influence not only how something looks, but also how well it operates. A poorly designed website, for example, will have trouble convincing website visitors that the company cares about customer service, even if it says they do, when the website is frustratingly difficult to use, is slow to load, and contains out-of-date information.

Think like your customers

Webber says that businesses need to understand the value of design for their own good. It will help them to start thinking like their customers. One way to do that is to think about their own behaviour as consumers.  If we think about the tools we use that we won’t part with, we will likely find that these are the ones that are designed well. They are easier to use, last longer, make our job easier, or are just plain fun to use.

Another way to appreciate the value of design, according to Webber, is to go shopping. Look at cars or common household items to see what makes them great. Look at their lines, colors, shapes, sizes, materials, and detail. Consider how they feel, and what they are like to use. You’ll soon find they have some things in common. Not only will they ‘look, feel, and perform” better, he says, but they will also be more expensive. That is because good design takes time to create, and also because consumers are willing to pay more for things that are well made. Good to know -- isn’t it?

Winning the competition on quality

How can this knowledge help businesses compete? The design of our products, services, and marketing influences the value customers place on our offerings. In marketing, the quality of our promotional material, such as our website, business cards and logo, directly affect how potential customers perceive who we are.

Webber says, “[Most of] You already know that the design of your Web site says more about your brand than any thirty-second TV spot...things such as the design of your logo and letterhead, the design of your business card, and your office space all communicate instantly what your operation is all about...”

Communicating the quality of your company through the design of your website and marketing will pay dividends in the long run. What kind of impression do you want to make?

Quotes from Alan M. Webber. Rules of Thumb. 2009. (Introduction & p. 136)

Image:  'dude,' courtesy of Brianna Garcia. Used with permission.