Deck chairs

by Jason Preston on June 3, 2009

A popular line in newspaper criticism right now is that redesigns are like “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Of course that’s a false comparison because changes in design amount to substantive changes in your product, whereas changing deck chairs really is a useless exercise when you’re trying to avoid an iceberg.

If you don’t think design matters, consider the 20% sales drop in Tropicana orange juice after their recent re-branding. They changed it back after only two months.

Numerous studies show that people find identical food in different packaging taste different (and are therefore worth different amounts of money).

The point is: solve the relevant problem, not the irrelevant problem. If the Titanic faced a passenger shortage, re-arranging the deck chairs probably would have helped.

In my book, “visual appeal” is directly relevant to whether or not people are buying your product.

{ 3 comments }

1 Curt M. 06.03.09 at 3:04 pm

My theory (for newspapers, at least) is: Concentrate on the content first (because that’s where the big problems are) and let the content drive the design. Too many times it works the other way around: design first, then content. Old content in a new package might work for a bit but not for the long-term.

2 Jason Preston 06.05.09 at 1:34 pm

I’d actually argue that content is not a huge problem area for many newspapers. As people like to say: “more people are reading newspapers now than ever before!”

Content is a problem for *journalists* because it’s not easy to differentiate yourself when everyone is trained to write, essentially, the same thing.

From a newspaper’s perspective, what you need to do is 1) differentiate your product and 2) charge for it. Both of those hurdles can be addressed with design, IMHO.

3 Curt M. 06.07.09 at 7:19 pm

But if you want to charge for content, you need to offer something different and better. Journalists need to be trained in that way, not to the old standard of sameness. Design alone won’t do that.

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