How do you value Design?

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How do you value Design?

This is obviously too broad a question? Let's clarify. Am I asking what does it mean to you? Am I asking how much do you charge, or should you charge for designing something? I could be asking where on your continuum of issues does Design as a subject land. These would all be good topics of discussion, which I hope we can get to discuss eventually.

However, my initial question is intended to create a sharing of thoughts, experiences, projects, etc. that actually might help IDSA as a professional organization identify the value of the design of a product to the success or potential success of that product. We've been trying to do this as an organization for a very long time. A problem with doing this is how close to the chest most companies are about their success, unless it's spectacular. It seems the only way to find out how to value a design is to sue someone for design patent infringement. However, we are now in an age of crowd-sourcing and here is your chance to contribute.

Not sharing any secrets, I'll start:

An old client, Vidar Systems wanted to address the medical market with their high quality digital scanning technology. They literally gave us a box of components and asked what does this need to be to scan analog X-ray films in the hospital radiology market? Through "design research", we determined a configuration / design that improved the human factors, increased throughput, reduced film damage, reduced footprint, reduced Mfg. cost by 30% and won an IDSA International Design Excellence Award (IDEA). Within 18 months of introduction it seized 75% of the medical x-ray scanning market. So we were told by the client.

So, my 1st go is under 100 words, what's yours?

I conducted consumer research while head of product design for JCPenney in the late 1980’s. We knew from prior research that consumers’ top purchasing criteria for consumer products was one, value and two, quality. We then posed the question, “Do you think other consumers, not you, but the general population, has the ability to judge value and quality of a product, from an refrigerator to a pair of scissors, by only judging the product’s appearance?” About 90% of the 150 or so individual respondents said “No”, and said so without hesitation.

While the respondents’ opinion regarding other consumers’ ability was not surprising, here’s what was shocking. About 90% of those 90% who did not attribute that ability to others, confided in us, during exit interviews, that they had a “unique gift”. They did have the ability to determine value and quality of consumer products by only judging the products’ appearance.

While the vast majority of the consuming public does not credit this visual acuity to others, a vast majority of the consuming public feels that they alone, are somehow blessed with this unique and special ability. The almost universal belief that the general population cannot judge value and quality by judging the products’ design is at the root cause of why most companies do not see design as the primary purchasing criteria that it, in fact, is.