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Design language

Product design can play a big role in innovation, but too often it is used only as an attempt to make a product look good. This approach is characterized by a designer creating a wall full of visual variations in which the stakeholders pick the ones they think look good. The use of design language, by contrast, is characterized by an intentional development of the form in order to achieve more systematic ends.

Design language can express the product’s core benefits, create identity for a line of products, help the product relate to its environment, and communicate how the product is used. Looking good certainly results from this development, but it is not the end goal.

Design language is important to both complex product lines like automobiles but also can be used in simpler product lines like Eva-Solo’s wonderful housewares. Of course, Apple has been masterful at managing their design language over the years.  There is little published on methods for creating a design language, but it is increasingly important as global sourcing allows any marketing firm to source any product. Design language is one way to establish more meaning in one’s product line, reinforce brand identity, and make the company’s products a pleasure to have.

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I have been reading you guys since you started and wanted to congratulate you on your posts which keep me thinking for days. I am a product designer turned interaction designer and now turning to service design as a holistic approach to my projects ! So obviously your blog is one of the first that i read in the morning.

This came to my attention as an interesteing point of view regarding the power that objects have and innovation FOR those objects can be.


As a product desgner it makes my teeth grind when people say that we make things look good, those are stylists, I would argue that most of our work has to do with innovation in use, efficiency in production and user understanding. We are concerned with things like overdesigning, function-creep, usability and ergonomics and the cradle to cradle cycle that these objects go through, materials, environmental concerns, etc... Esthetics, the symbols and the affordances of an object are all aspects which will ultimately shape the design language of an object as well as its user enjoyment. But it is only the outershell of a complex process. When people buy a juicer (i have one on mind but will not say which as to not insult it's creator) then think it looks good but also expect it work decently and when either of those aspects, fail, the product loses value. Its keeping the balance of both the form and the function that makes for a clever and enjoyable product.

hmm, ranting...well you get the idea.

Posted by: Alexandra Sonsino | Apr 17, 2005 3:03:01 PM

Interesting comment, Alexandra and thanks for the link! It looks like its worth checking out on a regular basis in the future :-)

You wrote that you´re turning to service design which is an area i find very interesting. I see it as the "next thing big thing" as it - in my understanding - includes the complete customer cycle from a company point of view. I see service design (or experience design, i guess) as the processes and skills that enhance the possibilities for the customer to fall in love with the product/service and the company behind it and - most importantly - to stay in love with it i.e. creates retention and loyalty - which from a business perspective is cheaper than new biz.

Whats your perspective on service design?

Posted by: Magnus Christensson | Apr 18, 2005 4:29:52 PM

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CPH127 is a sense-making initiative. We aim to create a open dialogue around the profound understanding of the leadership, organization and strategy of creative business functions with the aim to create new value (for customers, employers and stakeholders.

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