The themes of Design Forum Finland in 2019 are value and meaning in design. We will study these concepts and how they can be brought to life by design in our events and presentations. This is a topical theme – many companies and organizations mention creating meaning as an important target in their operations. When material needs and wishes have been satisfied, we can afford to reach farther.
It’s natural for us to seek meanings. Our brain fills in missing characters in a word, continues lines of a familiar figure. Meanings are born and grow through experiences, building our identity piece by piece. They are created both on the cognitive level and deeper, on the emotional level – and the deeper they are born, the stronger their impact is. Meanings mirror our values, hopes and goals and with them, we construct the vision of our place and mission in the world.
Meanings are born continuously. Choices we make in our everyday life have an impression on the meaningfulness of things. They are also a way to influence and take a stand, our message to the provider of a service or product: this is important, this is valuable for us. Even an ordinary purchase leaves an imprint, whether positive or negative. A positive and memorable customer experience can carry many types of meaning – increase knowledge, strengthen a sense of belonging, bring joy and contentment or feelings of succeeding. Making Meaning, a book by Steve Diller and Nathan Shedroff, lists fifteen types of meaning which can be found when a customer and a company meet: beauty, creativity, justice, truth – all positive concepts. At its best, a good customer experience makes the bond between a customer and a company stronger, as the contact brings also along immaterial profit and joy besides the product or service. The company got a new loyal customer and proponent.
As meanings originate through experiences, these are worth planning. Here again we meet the user or customer experience! With design, we can influence the customer experience, in all the touchpoints between the customer and the company. Each touchpoint is an opportunity, not to miss. Taking meaningfulness into consideration also increases the value generated by design. As with meanings, there are also several types of value, from immaterial to material and economical, and they come up as varyingly. Especially in the creation of immaterial values, meanings have a significant role.
All this requires, of course, that we know the customer’s needs and wishes well and deeply. The deeper we get on the emotional level, the stronger impact we are able to create. The most successful companies have already noticed this.