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Beauty as a force for disruption

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

Perhaps a consequence of tight deadlines and even tighter budgets, but it often seems brands sacrifice beautiful design for functionality.

While we appreciate the importance of functionality, at Rare we are also self-proclaimed aesthetes. But not for the sake of beauty alone: we believe in elegant, eye-catching design as the key to making your brand stand apart from its competitors, disrupting your sector and winning you success.

Insight from a master

Influential graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, of Sagmeister and Walsh, has been vocal in his belief that beauty is key to successful design in all fields. In a recent interview, he derided modern approaches to creativity:

“Our entire obsession is with functionality. I’ve seen many people put functionality as their main goal... 99% of ugly things that exist in the world have not been made by someone who wanted to make them ugly, they’ve been made by somebody who didn’t give a shit.”

We agree with Stefan: beauty is too often overlooked as a superfluous luxury when, used thoughtfully, it can instead be the key to disruptive brand success.

Disrupting the sector

In the same interview Sagmeister outlined a scenario where he worked with a tech company –  a sector where beautiful design is not usually paramount:

“Within the last few years we did an identity for a company called Fugue, a technology company whose clients were chief technology officers, not normally an audience where beauty would work brilliantly. However, when we used beauty for this project it worked really well. That space is devoid of beauty so when our client went to a trade show their booth and their material was so different to everybody else’s.”

In a bland sector, a beautiful brand is disruptive - and disruptive can mean lucrative. When Haagen-Dazs first appeared on British shelves in classy and distinctive cardboard pots, shoppers hadn’t seen anything like it; the brand soon became a market leader. James Dyson revolutionised the way we look at vacuum cleaners and hand dryers by putting a high premium on the beauty of his industrial design. These items shone brightly in sectors where products had become bland.

Distinction via design

An instantly recognisable image with aesthetic appeal can distinguish a brand from its competitors and create a personal connection with the consumer. Beautiful design has the ability to make a good product exceptional.

Apple’s iconic design is the most obvious example of this phenomenon. Electronically, Apple offers little extra product value to its competitors. What elevates Apple products from their competitors is their beauty. The exquisite design of their iPhones and Macs enhances their consumers’ lifestyles.

Beautiful packaging can have the same effect on-shelf.Kind Bars are a typical, nutritional snack choice offering little different nutritional value to their competitors. Standout shelf design has lifted their sales well beyond those of their mundane competition.

Creating an experience

Beauty should be at the root of the experiential effect brands increasingly seek to offer. In an interview with Branding Magazine, Pearlfisher co-founder Jonathan Ford discussed the importance of creating a designed effect for a memorable consumer experience:

“Experiences don’t have to always be extravagant, but rather can be ingrained in the smallest of interactions with a brand. For example, the impression that well-designed packaging can leave on a target consumer, something that makes the user feel that a product has been tailored to their needs... In a more soundbite-driven age, design allows the consumer to think about things in a big, holistic way, to create something of meaning and substance. Something that creates powerful and overriding desire.”

The cost of beauty

In an abstract sense, beauty isn't something that can be budgeted for by brand managers, but it has massive brand value and should be accounted for and judged. Beauty provides power; it distinguishes brands from their competitors and evokes desire which no workaday feature list can match. Those brave enough to build it into their brand will reap the rewards of disruption.

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