Design is not ‘quick fix’ solution

When I read Lynda Relph-Knight’s Comment (DW 11 June), I feared it was going to support the idea that design can solve all problems, including those of ailing retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, to mention but two. Happily this was not the

When I read Lynda Relph-Knight’s Comment (DW 11 June), I feared it was going to support the idea that design can solve all problems, including those of ailing retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, to mention but two. Happily this was not the case as far as the article was concerned.

However, I do wonder whether the executives of these companies and others, too numerous to mention, will look for a “quick fix” design that will solve nothing.

It is not the coloration of the Sainsbury’s logo or the typeface that is wrong, nor will it make any difference if the logo is changed by itself. It is the whole trading ethos of the company which, while including layout and design, will certainly need to involve product, service and marketing for it to be successful.

The search for a design panacea to rectify retailers’ ills is nothing new. In the early 1960s, I was assistant development manager for Fine Fare when it was the leading and most rapidly developing food retailer in the country, if not in Europe. It lost its way, just as Sainsbury’s might have done, and at the time Tesco was starting to develop and take a market share.

Instead of sorting out the product offer, the service being provided to the customers and marketing, certain members of the board started to look at the design and corporate identity to get the company back on track. At one time, there were five different identities trading on the high street all having Fine Fare lorries delivering. The only people who benefited were the shopfitters and sign companies. It is only when there is a benefit to consumers and they are comfortable with the environment that company performance will improve.

I doubt that design has caused the downfall of any company, but there can be no doubt that the cost of design implementation may have done and will certainly have put some companys’ future in jeopardy or delayed the success of others.

Those executives responsible, including British Airways, should be banned from ever talking to designers.

Barry Stedham

Director

Insight Design Associates

Herts SG4 9AH

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