Design as a differentiator
A Philips case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Philips 5 Image 3Good design is an important attribute of a successful product. A well designed product will stand out from rivals, win customer loyalty and sometimes even a ‘fan club’ as in the case of classic cars, such as the MG sports car and the Volkswagen 'Beetle'. The concept of good design involves a number of attributes including - aesthetics (appealing to the senses through colour, size, appearance, shape, smell and taste of products), reliability, safety, maintenance requirements, impact on the environment, convenience and efficiency, ease of manufacture and commercial viability.

Some products are thought to represent good design because of their functionality, they do what they are required to do in an efficient manner (e.g. a modern tin opener, a ring pull on a soft drinks can, the Ford Ka, etc.). Other products are said to represent good design because they offer style and visual impact (e.g. a gourmet restaurant dish, an expensive designer dress or a Jaguar car). A well designed product performs the functions required by the consumer better than rival offerings. Design is a great differentiator and is likely to create competitive advantage.

This case study focuses on Philips and how a competitive edge can be built through design. The Philips-Alessi Line was the creation of a new set of products designed to ‘re-humanise the kitchen’. It was an attempt to restore the balance between the pace of modern life, hygiene and high-tech convenience on the one hand and human warmth, repose and social ritual on the other. The inspiration behind the development of the Philips-Alessi Line was a research seminar in Design Management led by Philips Senior Director of Corporate Design, Stefano Marzano. It focused on a comparison between the design approaches of two different organisations producing articles for the home:

Each of the two organisations represented the best in its field. In spite of the clear differences between the two organisations there was a startling complement of skills and organisational goals. It was immediately apparent that tremendous synergistic benefit could be developed from bringing the respective strengths of the two organisations together. Philips would be able to benefit from incorporating more ‘poetry’ (essentially human values) into its products, while Alessi would benefit from incorporating more high-tech convenience. The combined effect would be to bring together form and function.

Philips | Design as a differentiator