Why aren’t product designers as valued as other creatives?

Above are three designers; Kristian Eke, Jan Puranen and Oskar Juhlin. And in our cover-pic we also feature another experienced designer, Ehlén Johansson. If they worked for some clients their identities and very existence would indeed be hidden. But fortunately for them they all work for IKEA, who in real life publically acknowledge their designers, and defintely show their faces unpixellated.

IKEA is one of a number of smart and confident companies who proudly credit their designers; throughout their business, in store, on the product packaging and even moulded into the products themselves. Their designers help make IKEA the huge success that it continues to be. So why do some companies airbrush their designers out of the picture?

If you hire an architect to design your home; or a professional photographer to do a formal family portrait, you would happily share this fact with your friends. Maybe even brag about it. And if you commissioned an architect to design your business’s head office, or used a leading graphic designer for your companies impressive new branding you wouldn’t be shy about sharing these associations. Afterall, it can only reflect well on an individual or business when you use a creative professional or firm that is at the top of their field.

However one creative area where this doesn’t always happen is in the field of product design. For every IKEA, there are still too many companies that fail to properly credit their product designers’ involvement.

Other exemplar companies (and industries) that proudly acknowledge the designers that assist in creating their products include:

  • Swiss telephone company, SwissVoice who name their designers throughout their marketing and even on the product packaging.
  • Ikea is a classic example of the former, and in general the furniture design sector is very good at this.
  • Closer to home, long term Cobalt clients such as Concave and Spears Pacific embrace this concept.

Whilst companies who do this are very diverse, they share some attributes of being confident in their customers to appreciate that their product’s design was a broad team effort.  There may also be a cultural element, in that in general the role and independence of ‘designer’ and ‘client’ seems to be more defined by Europeans.

We all used to be ad hoc about attributing credit to the author of something insightfully written, or the photographer responsible for a great picture. So, hopefully one day the norm and the business sense will be open about, and celebrate, our product designers too.