Have you ever been in one of those bathrooms in a restaurant or bar. You know the type... the design is so outrageous it's hard to tell the difference between the water features and the bits you really need.
It struck me that more restaurants, bars and coffee shops use innovative design than do brands on the average supermarket shelf yet brand owners will tell you innovation is a critical part of their business. Why is that?
Good Food article...
Clearly, those restaurant, bar and café owners believe that design is an important part of their whole brand experience (even if they don’t think of it in those terms). I don’t think the average ‘big company’ marketer believes any differently. For both small businesses and big brands, innovative design done well is a tool for brands to be disruptive and engaging.
What I do think is that brand and design innovation is often strangled by democracy.
The average restaurant or coffee shop has maybe 1 or 2 people making all the decisions. Many client companies I work with have dozens of people involved in decisions on brand design. Small businesses are mini dictatorships. Large companies mostly strive for democratic consensus.
Look at a few companies whose branding and design is often cited as ‘what we aspire to’. Companies like Apple, Virgin, Google, Method and many like them are (or were) driven from the top down by a culture of innovation… it’s not something pushed up from the marketing department.
When design innovation isn’t driven from top to bottom in a company the difference between the outcomes can be stark. You've probably seen this video before and we might have all laughed at it but there is something profound in the satire.
I’ve seen many fantastic brand and design innovations halted by a corporate attitude of “lets wait until someone else does it first to prove it works”. Those companies think they are mitigating risk when in fact failing to innovate can be even more devestating.
Brand design innovation needs either an innovation-led autocracy or complete empowerment of those responsible for innovation within a company.
Any design brief mandating ‘innovative design’ needs a champion in the business. Someone who fights for design that is out of the ordinary. Someone encouraged to take risks in the search for innovation.
Someone who knows they will be supported if the risks don’t succeed and rewarded if they do.
Someone who works in a company where design innovation is driven and supported by the very top levels of management.