experiment of observing things that I find appealing in the world around me and
recording them in my “What I’ve Got” posts each week has been a thoroughly
rewarding experience. Through these posts, clear design preferences have
emerged as well as my own, personal definition of desirability. From this
experiment, I have learned the importance of understanding your user or
customer and his or her definition of desirability.
Desmet and Paul Hekkert, in their article “Framework of Product Experience,”
distinguish between the aesthetic experience and experience of meaning, both of
which are key components of my definition of desirability. These two aspects of
the product experience are important to my personal definition of desirability.
I prefer clear, consistent branding with a clean, fresh aesthetic look. For
example, I wrote about two companies, DryBar and Soul Cycle, which I find
particularly desirable. Each of these companies is a power player in their
respective spaces. Aesthetically, each of these companies has a clear,
consistent brand. It is interesting to note that both use toned down yellow and
grey colors in their branding – colors that elicit happy, peaceful emotions.
Desmet and Hekkert say that the luxury of a product is an example of that
product’s experience of meaning, that luxury “represents a symbolic value of a
comfortable lifestyle that is associated with particular consumer products.”
Both the Soul Cycle and DryBar brands make a conscious effort to maintain an
experience of luxury – this is how they connect with their customers on a
deeper level and maintain high retention rates among users.
I prefer products that are simple, practical, and highly effective. For
example, I wrote “What I’ve Got” posts on the card case and on rain ponchos.
Both of these products have simple designs that are optimized for practicality.
I generally do not gravitate towards products with frills; rather, I gravitate
towards products that get the job done in an effective manner.
I am interested in the profitability of products. More specifically, I am
interested in corporate decisions to create products that adapt to changing
market conditions. For example, I wrote “What I’ve Got” posts on Capital 1’s
banking cafes and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Saks Off Fifth Outlet stores. Over the
past decade, traditional banking has given way to the predominance of online
banking. Capital 1’s banking cafes were an attempt to maintain face-to-face
communication with customers in the age of online banking. Similarly, Saks Off
Fifth was expanded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which had caused a
substantial decline in luxury retail sales. In Q4 2008, luxury retailers
returned the weakest sales figures in 35 years. Saks adapted to this changing
environment by expanding their affiliated discount stores as a way to sell off
excess inventory from their flagship stores. These outlet stores are often as
profitable, if not more profitable, than their full price counterparts because
they have lower capital costs and significantly lower operating expenses. Since
2008, the number of Saks Off Fifth locations has surpassed the number of Saks locations (110 to 40).
Desmet and Hekkert support
the notion that people become more attached to products that have a similar
personality to their own. I believe that my personality is reflected in my personal
definition of desirability. This definition includes products that are clean, effective,
and creatively adaptive. It is extremely important to remember that people tend
towards products that have a similar personality to their own. As Desmet and Hekkert
write, “Experience is not a property of the product but the outcome of
human-product interaction, and therefore dependent on what characteristics the
user brings into the interaction.” When creating a product, it is most
important to identify your typical customer and his or her desires. What is his
or her personality? What does he or she like/dislike? What aesthetic,
meaningful, and emotional experiences do they want from the product? Only after
answering these questions will a product be able to successfully capture its