Well-known brands such as Apple’s iconic iMac and iPod, Swatch, BMW, Nokia, Google and 3M have built their success on design-led thinking. There are also a great number of less known business-to-business companies who use design to provide equally valued products and services at a premium to their loyal customers, often within very specific niche markets.
The following case studies provide a glimpse of the use of design principles in the successful commercialisation of new products and services.
OBO has become the global leader in hockey goalie protective equipment. It sells to 61 countries and has more than 60 percent market share. Design has put them there. OBO has focused on immersing itself in the world of the hockey goalie and developing innovative, good looking products that allow the wearer to be more agile and more effective. The company believes keys to its success are attitude, form, function, colour, language and visual impact.
Fisher & Paykel’s revolutionary DishDrawer retails for more than double its standard dishwasher. The new product provided the company with a platform to enter new markets in UK/Europe and the Middle East. The company’s revenue from appliances increased from $500 million in the 1997/1998 financial year to $853 million for 2003/2004, and 150 additional staff were added for DishDrawer development and production alone. Perhaps most markedly, the operating profit before interest and tax for appliances leapt from $11.5 million in the 1997/1998 financial year to $102 million for 2003/2004.
Formway Furniture’s award-winning Life chair has been designed with the human form in mind. Since its launch in 2002, the company has achieved $6.5 million in sales in Australasia alone. But more significantly, the company has negotiated the chair’s production under licence in the US, earning significant licensing fees and royalties. The chair took 20 person years to develop, but the investment was recouped in under three years from licensing fees alone. The patented IP for the Life chair is the most valuable asset for Formway.
“By athletes for athletes” is the philosophy that has earned triathlon clothing company Orca a 60 percent share of the world’s elite triathlon market, and is now allowing the company to retain its premium pricing for wetsuits and other clothing aimed at the entry level triathlon market. With the world’s top athletes wearing Orca, the brand cachet for a product that gives a proven competitive advantage is the result of a relentless focus on creating a design-led advantage.