Brand Packaging

The Mainstreaming of Design?

May 1, 2005

The Mainstreaming of Design?
Jennifer Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief
Shortly after I accepted the editor’s position on BRANDPACKAGING, I had the opportunity to attend a web seminar presented by management guru Tom Peters and Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Richards. During the seminar, titled “Lovemarks by Design”, both lamented the fact that, at the time, not one leading business school in the United States required a single course in the areas of innovation, creativity or design.
It’s been a quick six months, and, apparently, times have changed. Stanford University recently unveiled plans for its new “d.school”, which decries (in a manifesto printed on a cocktail napkin) that it will “use DESIGN thinking to inspire multidisciplinary teams.” A core team of faculty from computer science, mechanical engineering, management science and engineering, and, yes, the graduate school of business are collaborating to create the d.school. The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design has undertaken a similar effort, albeit on a smaller scale, and now offers “non-designers” an executive master’s degree program in design methods.
So what does this changing attitude toward design mean for brand marketers? These days, I frequently hear warnings of the “commoditization” of design. Some seem to fear an economy in which design is a given, an expectation that consumers take for granted. Has another point of differentiation been lost?
I choose not to see it that way. With an expectation of design comes an appreciation and acknowledgement of good design. Consider the creative and often revolutionary packages we feature in the pages of this magazine each month—each has won with consumers because of unsurpassed shelf appeal, structural innovation or improved consumer utility. For both the brand marketer, whose eyes are opening to design-based strategy, and the consumer, who is drawn to the innovative in a sea of sameness, this so-called “mainstreaming” of design is a win-win proposition.
On another note, I’d like to acknowledge three companies who were instrumental in helping us add a point of difference to our own May/June cover. Thanks for a job well done go out to Kurz Transfer Products for providing the foil materials, H&M for supplying the dies and Letterhead Press for hot stamping the pre-printed covers.