Several times on this web site, and also with designers that I have met, I have discussed how important it is to connect with a potential customer - to give them enough background story for them to ‘engage’ with the design. It really does help if a potential buyer can say ‘now I know why you designed it like that’ or ‘now I see why that was made in that way.’
In an age of social media, some buyers might expect even more back story and some people might even want to understand more about the design process or ask for more technical information or be interested in the design theory behind the product. That’s more difficult for a designer to judge. How much information is too much information? Do you sell more or sell more or less easily if a design moves from being an impulse buy to being a carefully considered purchase?
Three different companies at Finderskeepers at the weekend have taken buyer participation further than most and I thought it might be interesting here to look at the way they have tried to involve their customers.
Jonas Jensen started his company Wood Junkie just over a year ago. His products are simple, beautifully proportioned and really well made so customers are attracted initially by the appearance and then quickly move on to appreciate the quality of the wood and of the quality of the workmanship and finish. But there is a next stage.
His current catalogue has a number of shelves, circular tables and items such as a clock with a drop-shaped face. But all can be adapted or modified to suit a change of mood or changing needs … so the deeper shelves and tables have circular drop ins that take cylindrical glass burners, plant holders, a holder for three night lights or trays in contrasting materials. There is also a choice from two different base/leg types. Wider shelves have combinations of hollows and pierced slots to take keys or jewellery if they are used in a hallway or as a bedside shelf and the narrow shelves have an angled front edge that forms a rail with wood blocks for candle holders that can be moved along to sit at any position along the length.
Wood Junkie have produced a video for their Instagram site to show how easy these transformations are ... in the film a girl comes in and changes the table over to a burner before settling back on the sofa to relax.
Even the Drop Clock has three slots in the back and a short tab of wood that acts as a foot that can be moved to set the clock in different positions.
The designs are flexible and adaptable … so to an extent they can be customised … but it also taps into the idea that well-made, high-quality design can and should have a role in your life for much longer. If furniture or design objects are cheap and are purchased for the short term then it doesn’t matter if they are more obviously of a style that is fashionable now but will soon date and it doesn’t matter if your life or your needs change because a cheap item can be dumped and replaced. But if you are buying a well-made and well-designed piece of furniture it is better if the style is less obvious and less likely to date and it certainly helps if the piece is, to some extent flexible or adaptable, changing as your life changes.