The Consumer Electronics Show--Style Over Experience?

It’s great to see The Wall Street Journal wake up to design and innovation, but the recent story on the CES celebrates the most basic kind of design—style—and fails to understand the need for deep consumer experience. You come away thinking, ooh, Dell and other PC makers are finally discovering color and cool form and that’s the key to succeeding with consumers.

There’s no doubt that color is important to people, especially as they carry screens around with them all the time. The Great Shift of computer from office PC to personal laptop means personalizing the product and that definitely means color, as well as texture, weight and all the factors that go into “look and feel”.

But suggesting that computer makers are only or mostly focussing on style to appeal to consumers is an error. I know the design managers at Dell and HP and they are totally into authentic consumer experiences. They get the need to build broad ecosystems that engage people in many ways and take them on a journey that pulls them back again and again. This kind of design goes way beyond color and fit and finish to a seamless interaction between customer and company. This kind of design depends on a deep, deep understanding of the individual company’s particular customer culture(s). It’s about connecting on an emotional level.

In the end, it’s about designing a relationship, not a product. In fact, that’s what a brand is today, a relationship. Create a great one, and not only will they come, they’ll stay.

Whoa. RitaSue Siegel just sent a comment reminding me that BW’s story foreshadowing the CES show does pretty much the same thing as the WSJ—focus on style. There’s a box that says “Design is a big factor behind Apple’s rising market share and juicy margins. No wonder the industry is starting to focus on style.”

Thanks RitaSue. I didn’t edit this piece and the same criticisms I made on the WSJ story apply here. And any CEO who thinks that Apple is successful simply because of style is destined to fail.

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