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Why design is crucial for business innovations to thrive

Innovation has been the bedrock of many successful brands, often driven by technological or scientific advancements that capture audiences and achieve widespread appeal.
Words by
21 June, 2024
2 mins read

Today’s innovation-driven startups, success relies on more than just groundbreaking science or technology. True innovators must recognize that without strategic design, their products or services are unlikely to achieve mass appeal.

While many understand the need for a logo, name, and visual assets, they often overlook the critical role that design strategy plays in establishing a brand’s identity and resonating with today’s consumers. Design is essential for amplifying innovation effectively.

Beyond the buzzword

The term “innovation” has become ubiquitous, often serving more as a marketing buzzword than an indicator of true transformation. With countless brands claiming innovation and competing for attention across numerous platforms, conveying a clear and accessible message has never been more crucial. If a brand fails to communicate its purpose instantly, potential customers are unlikely to engage further.

Design cuts through the noise of overpromising and buzzwords by providing clarity. It aids in translating complex ideas into understandable and appealing messages. For instance, apparel brand Pangaia effectively communicates its unique selling proposition through simple design elements, making its innovation clear at a glance.

Simplicity in naming

Naming is another critical aspect of design that can significantly impact a brand’s connection with its audience. Overly complex names that try to encapsulate every facet of innovation can be confusing. Leading innovation companies often use simple, descriptive names for their technologies and products, making their unique selling points immediately clear.

Dyson , for example, uses terms like ‘Ball,’ ‘Fluffy,’ and ‘Air Multiplier’ to succinctly convey their products’ features. Similarly, the period care brand Fluus uses its name—a portmanteau of ‘Flush Us’—and its proprietary tech name, Flushtec, to instantly communicate its groundbreaking flushable pads. This simplicity sets it apart in a crowded market of eco-friendly period products.

Celebrating strategy

A cohesive design strategy permeates all aspects of a brand, reinforcing its unique value proposition. Effective design strategy involves a deep understanding of the target audience and their needs, informing every element of the brand’s visual and verbal identity. This approach ensures that the brand communicates its innovation clearly and resonates emotionally with its audience.

For example, the design elements of Fluus—its wordmark, color palette, and animated graphics—reinforce its flushable innovation. Similarly, tone of voice plays a crucial role. Once a brand has clarity and focus, the right personality can make it more relatable and engaging.

Crafting a distinctive brand personality

Consider Meatable, a Dutch biotechnology company developing cultured meat. Despite its high-tech nature, Meatable’s brand evokes traditional, wholesome values with serif typefaces and retro imagery, creating a bridge between futuristic innovation and familiar comfort. In contrast, Haeckels, a skincare brand using locally harvested seaweed, emphasizes storytelling and warmth, aligning its scientific basis with a narrative of environmental stewardship.

Without a coherent design strategy, these brands might have fallen into the trap of sterile, science-heavy branding or clichéd sustainability tropes. Instead, design allows them to connect with consumers on a human level, highlighting their innovative essence while remaining accessible and appealing.

Integrating design and innovation

Successful innovation-driven startups often have design woven into their very DNA. This integration allows them to rise above the competition, clearly articulating their unique value propositions and building strong connections with their audience.

As Jo Tulej, creative director at Mother Design, eloquently states, “Design allows these innovators to emancipate the brand, separating it from the scientific mindset that created it – or the founder it is inherently tied to – to connect with people on a more human and immediate level.” In today’s crowded marketplace, this human connection, facilitated by strategic design, is what propels innovative brands to success.

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David Ryckman

David is a regular contributor and sub-editor for Who Design Today. He is a Managing Partner at Kwibb and has a keen eye for design and branding.

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