Desirability – Volkswagen Beetle, Gangnam Style & Religion

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Volkswagen Beetle

At a time when everything was big, busy and in-your-face, Volkswagen dared to be different. They dared to be small, subtle, self-deprecating. The product itself was designed for desirability because it was fun and funky, but also practical for its target market of young people. The ads were designed for desirability because they understood that when everyone is shouting at you (as the loud, starburst-filled advertisements were in those days) then sometimes a gentle, understanding tap on the shoulder is a better means of communication. The cleanliness and simplicity of these ads boasts many of the same principles that have shaped brands for decades to come, including obvious parallels with Apple.

Gangnam Style

Though an extraordinary amount of luck and good timing went into this billion-hit YouTube success, there was also a meticulously well-crafted design that made it so desirable to such a broad target audience. The beat was catchy, the colors were vibrant, the dancing was fun and coinable, the energy was high, and it was just ridiculous enough to be both hilarious and cool. Perhaps more importantly, the song itself was designed so that language was not a huge barrier – rather, the main “sing-along” portion of the song was in the title. Overall, the creative touches were apparent through every step of the video, resulting in a masterpiece of globally cool style.


Throughout history, ever-curious human beings have struggled with answerable questions about life, love, good, evil and purpose. Religion boasts many elements of desirable design – it gives answers to the unanswerable, promotes an enormous and inclusive feeling of community, leverages symbols and rituals to provide “branded” comfort, and creates something out of nothing to make the impossible possible (i.e. creating a sense of hope when none would otherwise exist). Obviously, it is unfair to write off “religion” as its own homogeneous category: there are intricacies of each faith that differ in why they began and what purpose they are intended to serve. Nonetheless, in many ways, this was the true intelligent design.


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