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Will design draw consumers in a recession? And can a recession actually spark innovation?

Posted by: Reena Jana on January 21, 2008

With an official recession looming, what types of innovative products and services will attract consumers?

Will they gravitate more toward free, online apps such as Google Documents rather than buy the latest version of Word if they need it, for example?

Will they be purchasing beautifully designed laptops such as the MacBook Air? Or looking for lower price tags and high value above design value above all else when making computer purchases?

And how about efforts to use design to attract customers to a brand? Will Target start seeing increased sales of their limited-edition designer clothing, or will customers gravitate to less-expensive basics?

Will fast-fashion stores such as H & M attract more people—the types who were attracted to “masstige”-driven, lower-priced lines of clothing and accessories by designers?

And how about auto purchases? Will design still be a draw for car-buyers in a recession?

It seems to me that a recession could actually spark some true innovation in terms of design, as far as use of less expensive and more durable materials, or perhaps the development of new services and software, or even gadgets and goods that defy quick obsolescence and offer updates or add-ons that might help consumers save money. And will such items be marketed as such, as recession-friendly and easy on the wallet, rather than the coolest, must-have things?

Reader Comments

Jamie Bratslavsky, Product Coordinator, Stratogistics Inc.

January 28, 2008 12:45 PM

I definitely feel that design can play the upper-hand, if done strategically. It's all about the marketing and changing perceptions. Design does not always have to equate high price tags. Design can also change the pathway of spendings by introducing "recession-friendly" alternatives (which can or may not be any different than if it were not during a recession) to the crisis, playing on consumer psychology by having them feel that they are getting more bang for their buck. We can still afford to incorporate it into goods without necessarily breaking bank. I feel that newly-evolved products and services, even software, can restructure their pricing or offer alternatives without necessarily making it obvious that they are doing so in response to the official crisis at hand. The goal is to still appear affordable and valuable, keeping consistency with the inevitable "hurricane" that threatens the "neighborhood". Offering a more affordable line or service offers balance, reflective of economic state: both nationally and locally (households). Perhaps this requires some careful consideration before new products launch today.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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