Design plays a critical role in taking innovation to market. It also helps the successful commercialisation of innovative products and services.

What is design?

A well designed product matches functionality with emerging market needs and adds the human touch to new technologies.

Design may take various forms, for example:

  • industrial design and engineering design
  • ergonomic design
  • graphic design
  • spatial design and architectural design
  • experience design (can be applied to retail precincts, displays or events)
  • user-interface design
  • fashion or apparel design.

Why design is important

Design is an important element of innovation which is often overlooked. It helps determine how we interact with, and experience, products and services. This affects which products or services we buy and what we are prepared to pay for them.

Profitability and user satisfaction

'Design, as I see it, is arguably the number one determinant of whether a product-service-experience-brand proposition stands out…'

Tom Peters, Director of Exterior Design, General Motors, 2004

Understanding the user's actual needs, anticipating their future or hidden needs, and ensuring they have greater and deeper satisfaction, is the key to sustainable profitability.

Good design takes the user's requirements and shapes the product or service to take into account what is affordable, useful, accessible and pleasurable. By developing something that combines these elements, you will have a product or service that will sell and give continuing satisfaction.

Differentiation from competitors

'At Sony, we assume all products of our competitors will have basically the same technology, price performance and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace.'

Norio Ohaga, former Chairman and CEO, Sony

Good design differentiates a product or service, turning insights into customer preference. Properly applied, design can give you:

  • a sustainable advantage
  • help you command a premium price
  • gain market share
  • even reduce production costs.

Managing design

For design to provide profitability, customer satisfaction, competitive advantage and return on investment, it has to be given a high priority, no matter how large or small the business is. Design has to be effectively managed, and embedded into all aspects of the business's activities.

Effective design requires a process that thinks from the user's perspective, searching deeply to identify potential users' real problems or requirements and identifying 'unstated needs' and connecting with 'non-customers'. Businesses are finding that design thinking can be applied to all aspects of the business—not only products or services but also how they are delivered, supported and promoted.

The ability to integrate and manage design creates more discerning clients, more certainty of product or service success, and higher value relationships that contribute to improved profitability and return on investment.

Protecting a design

Designs must be registered through IP Australia to be protected. Design registration protects only the visual appearance of your product. As the owner of a registered design, you have an exclusive right to apply the design to the product for which it is registered. The initial period of protection lasts for 5 years from the date of filing. A design may only be registered for a maximum of 10 years from the date of filing.

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