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The industry as seen by top designers.

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Without good design, there are no sales.

by Lynda Musante and Tracia Williams (July, 2003)

Our industry does not create, develop, or sell the necessities of life -- things like milk, laundry detergent, or toilet paper. So, what factors lead to the success of products consumers don't need? What makes certain products profitable for retailers? The key is a combination of the quantity and quality of designs a manufacturer invests in marketing the product.

Consumers don't have to have our products, but they enjoy creating projects. When our consumer crafts something, that project becomes a heartfelt expression, such as a handmade gift for friends or family. Creative expression and a sense of accomplishment are necessities for the human spirit. And recipients of a handmade gift often treat that project as an heirloom.

The big challenges are these: 1. How to stop the consumer who is breezing by an in-store display, often with a screaming kid in her cart? 2. Then, how to inspire the consumer to pick one product rather than a competitor's? How does Company A sell its paint that is adjacent to the racks of its competitors? What makes Company B's yarn appear to be better than the others?

It boils down to education, advertising, and most importantly ... DESIGN! We must educate our consumers by featuring well designed projects in books and magazines, classes, and demonstrations -- in stores and on television.

Advertising that showcases well designed projects inspires consumers to realize the potential creative experience, and provides those busy consumers with ideas that will compel them to put the product in their carts. Nobody buys a bottle of paint, no matter how pretty the packaging, to display in a bookshelf.

Packaging Design.

Packaging design does play a key role in conveying a message to the consumer and helping the consumer choose Company A's paint instead of Company B's. Buyers say the front of the package has to tell the story. You can't depend on a consumer to read the back of the product label. Your product on shelf gets less than 10 seconds of consideration if the packaging doesn't grab the consumer's attention. Especially if your company is releasing a "Me-Too" type of product, quality designs will lift that product's sales over the originally introduced item -- we've seen it happen time and again.

Project Design.

Ultimately, project design inspires the consumer to try the product. Today's retailers do not have the resources to educate their staff on every new product when it is introduced to the store. They rely on the manufacturers and designers to work together to fill this gap. Even so, retailers need to invest in design as well.

Demonstrations, classes, project sheets, and websites will not succeed without well designed projects. A well designed project inspires consumers to say, "I could do that," and "I want to do that."

It's this simple: Just how much do you expect consumers to figure out by themselves regarding the usages of your product?

Too frequently, designers receive little and/or low compensation or recognition for their contribution to the success of a product. Often manufacturers cut advertising and design budgets when business is slow; we propose this logic should be reversed. When business is poor, what better time to inspire consumers to purchase your product?

Good designers make it their business to create original, innovative, and inspiring designs for their clients and for consumers. There are many similar products in our marketplace. Time and again, it's the designs, the packaging, and the advertising that can jump start a product's sales.

Often, it's design that creates trends or fads. In fact, good design partnered with good products will keep those trends from becoming mere fads.

The companies in our industry who support quality design and designers may have their ups and downs, but generally enjoy great success.


If you're attending the ACCI show this month, don't forget to visit The House That Crafts Built. It's four rooms decorated by some of the industry's top designers -- all members of the Society of Craft Designers.

(Note: Any comments you'd like to share with Lynda and Tracia? Any suggestions for topics for future columns? Contact them at Lynda Musante, Nifty Development Corp., Richmond, VA: Lsmusante@aol.com
Tracia Williams, Tracia & Company Inc., Orlando, FL: Traciaw@earthlink.net)



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