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Celebrating variety in design


Neil Baron, Associate Creative Director at Seymourpowell, reflects on the value in diverse design and ways to secure commercial success.

Neil Baron

Designing for the aspirational future consumer

The world is rich in tastes and culture, making the possibilities for design and innovation unbounded. Economies continue to grow… Korea and Japan have had an established ‘middle class’ with a disposable income for some time now. China has been evolving at pace for the last 20 years and now India and Southeast Asia are rapidly catching up. India has recently become the most populous country in the world, and it’s been predicted that by 2047, one in three Indians will be deemed to be ‘middle class’. Today, that number is already above 80 million: more than the total population of France.

With this change in society comes a new consumer group, with a spending power to match. Access to the Internet and ownership of smart phones allows new product trends to spread across the globe. In some instances, this can lead to a certain degree of homogenization – especially in the West. In other markets, we are increasingly seeing these trends evolve through the unique ‘prism’ of their viewpoint. Something observed, used and integrated into a lifestyle to create something completely new: like an exciting reflection.

As designers, we must understand and define the opportunities which exist for new products and services within these realms.

Zero-point design

An informal label which seems to have stuck, ‘zero-point design’ denotes starting at zero with no preconceptions. With a clean slate, we see purely through the eyes of the targeted consumer group. We garner both the lives they live and the lifestyle they would like to live; the way they see themselves, the image they would like to portray; the peer groups by which they wanted to be respected. One must then fuse these things together with real world needs and costs.

At Seymourpowell, we believe that our clients and the consumers they cater to are the ‘heroes’. There is a vast spectrum of tastes and values, and it is our job to understand where exactly on this scale our client should land: to identify the ‘sweet spot’.

We actively avoid having a house style. Our aim is to create something unique and ownable for every client who walks through our doors. We are an extension of their brand.


Our ongoing collaboration with Shazé, a premium lifestyle brand headquartered in Mumbai, is a prime example of this. Together with Shazé, we launched a hosting collection. Each piece has been designed with a thorough understanding of the tastes and aspirations of today’s luxury Indian consumer, carefully balancing form and function.

This collection is all about creating a moment for Shazé customers to stand out from the crowd. We wanted to design a truly unique collection of sleek, yet theatrical, products which customers are proud to own. We worked tirelessly to understand the nuances of the Indian luxury consumer and to construct what we now know as the Shazé DNA: an extroverted identity which is bold in its aesthetics and bends the rules of craftsmanship through innovative product design.

The power of love

It’s true, ideally 100% of people would love a product and buy it. In most cases, this is far from reality. 100% of people may quite like something, but this doesn’t guarantee sales. But a ‘love’ response? A design which evokes a strong emotional reaction will see people spending their money. If 20% love it and the other 80% feel indifference (or dislike!) you will generate a healthy number of sales. Polarising design: no bad thing.

In a world of social media, it can be easy to confuse ‘likes’ with genuine interest. The two often have less relation to each other than you might imagine. We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that a high number of ‘likes’ denotes a high number of sales. Passive ‘liking’ doesn’t equate to someone parting with their hard-earned cash – they may still feel the price point is too high or the product wouldn’t be used enough to justify its purchase.  

It is the designer’s job to drill down and define these absolute truths. Building a clear picture from real responses and real people. Our value proposition is one of accuracy.

Real people, real lives…

An essential part of our process is ‘on the ground’ research. A combination of ethnography, interviews, observation, trend, and cultural research gets us to a point where we can clearly establish a start point for success. Our strategy, research and design teams are not siloed: working together gives us a truly solid foundation on which to build.

With people’s needs and desires baked into the core of your design process, you will triumph.

Neil Baron is Associate Creative Director at Seymourpowell