One reason for which product aesthetic matters even more today is Digitalization. Digital technologies make it easier than ever to embed more information and intelligence into products and services. The value of a car is now determined up to 50% by electronics[. It was 1% in the 50s, 10% in the 80’s, and can only increase with the development of electric and self-driving cars.
An executive working for Domino’s, who was a guest speaker in one of my classes, told me during the break: “People think we are a pizza company, in reality we are an information technology company”. He was making an allusion to the sophisticate technology that Domino’s has in place to digitalize the experience of ordering and delivering food, and to capitalize from the huge amount of analytics that pizza ordering makes available.
These are just two examples from quite traditional industries showing how digitalization is changing production and fruition of goods and services in all sectors of the economy. While digital technologies empower customer experience in many ways, this empowerment comes with a price: information overload.
Proper delivery and organization of digital information becomes so of the utmost importance, not only for data scientists and app developers but virtually for anybody that has to communicate digitally (and who doesn’t?). Anytime we deliver information through some kind of digital medium, the relationship between what we want to communicate (content) and how to visually arrange this content (format) becomes even more crucial than in non-digital media. Think for instance to the level of editorial curation that Instagram heavy users adopt when posting a picture.
Surely, increasing competition makes beautiful design a differentiation factor, but there is more than that. I argue that we buy simple, elegant design not only because it is nicer, but because a rewarding aesthetic experience is an effective way to deal with the increasing complexity of our lives in the digital age.
More correctly, in fact, we live in a visual digital age. Digital technology makes production and consumption of visual content more affordable and widespread than ever, but it also generates the need of digesting torrents of data. The huge amount of information we are bombarded with, or actively look for, makes us more informed and knowledgeable, but also more aware of what we do not know. This awareness makes appear the world as complex and makes us anxious. Since simple and elegant design is very hard to produce, the predominant answer by average designers is to overshoot complexity by stuffing our devices and lives with more features, functionalities, buttons, and gears. The waste that results from overdesigning in terms of materials, time, money, frustration, and environmental damage is huge and no longer sustainable.
A key point is that aesthetic thinking and elegant design can be amazing resources to help us to cope with the complexity arising from the need to absorb abundant information and help us to achieve elegant solution while eliminating waste.
Yes, Beauty will save the world, once again … this time from complexity.