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Why relevant design is the way forward

What more do you say about design that hasn't already been said? More importantly, what can we say about Volcano Design other than that it is no more? No, we haven't shut our doors, nor have we all been axed. The correct answer is (c): we have rebranded as Grey Design.
Becoming Grey Design means we're still the same dynamic design team but with an awesome new facelift. The support of a global network means more collaboration and more innovation for our department. It's a pretty sweet deal. Evolution is the natural order of things in any industry. Stagnate or procrastinate and you will die. It sounds obvious, but is it?

As Volcano Design evolved into Grey, it got me thinking about the evolution of brands in general and why some of the world's biggest household names died.

A moment's silence please, for the following brands:

Saab: The "other" Swedish car loved by architects, independent spirits and maverick entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, went belly up in 2011. Loyalists appreciated Saab for its aerodynamic style and quirks like placing the ignition lock between the front seats rather than on the steering column. It was also the first car to have heated seats in 1971. So what happened? Alternative design can be beautiful but it is not effective design if the company doesn't make a profit. "Commercial" doesn't have to be a dirty word. Design has to make business sense.

HTC: From creating the first Windows phone to the first Android device, this Taiwan-based company looked promising. Yet they just cannot seem to compete with the Samsung Galaxy or the iPhone, and by 2012 HTC stocks had plummeted 50%. The HTC One has got pretty good reviews and no one seems to dispute the fact that HTC makes good quality smartphones. So what's the problem? Their marketing is not good. While Samsung and Apple make good products and market them well, HTC makes great products and markets them poorly ($12 million spent on the Robert Downey Jnr commercial and no one got it). Add in the fact that HTC only makes smartphones, not tablets, and the writing's on the wall. Presentation is everything, and offering is king.

So, what about the brands that did die and were resurrected thanks to some pretty damn fine design and marketing? We're looking at you Apple, Old Spice, Nokia and Marvel. Consumers are fickle, superficial and unforgiving. Beautiful but relevant design is an aphrodisiac for them. All the back-end stuff like customer service, quality of the product and PR, well that's the maintenance of the relationship. But first you have to woo them with design, because first impressions last.

As we bid farewell to our old skin, we are adapting to our new one. Evolution is a wonderful gift, and although it takes courage, boldness and foresight to get on the ride, once you do, you can never look back, because like the Pinterest poster says, "That's not the way you're going."

About the author

Kean Hartnady is Graphic Design Head at Grey Africa.

Volcano's press office

The Volcano Group is South Africa's leading independent agency group, and African Regional Coordination Centre for the ICOM+IN Global Marketing Communications Group