Archives For Design

People are dissatisfied with banking. A recent study from the Rassmussen Report reveals that American Consumers hold a grudge against banks who they hold responsible for the great recession. Many consumers believe that banks don’t have their best interests at heart. Bank fees are often confusing and hit your checking account when you can least afford them. People feel like idiots when they are hit with a bank fee. Most people, at one time or another, have had a nightmare customer service experience with a large bank. Large banks have some of the lowest customer experience and customer service ratings. People feel powerless to change things. Banks talk about being customer focused but very few of them empathize with the needs of their customers. Banks make money by keeping people confused. 

Like many people, Josh Reich got fed up with his bank after it charged him overdraft fees and he lived through a painful customer service experience. This motivated Reich, a software engineer from Australia, to come up with a better more human way to bank. 

Reich created Simple, an online banking company that was founded in Brooklyn and relocated to Portland, Oregon. Simple offers customers free checking and data analysis of their transactions and spending habits. The company, which began signing up customers in 2012 now has more than 80,000 accounts and has processed transactions worth more than $200 million. Simple does not have retail branches.

The Simple Bank Brand was developed to help people better control their finances. All employees in the company are unified in support of this common purpose. Their goal is to make banking more human by putting customer service at the core of everything they do. Simple is targeted to people who are dissatisfied with their current banking relationship. A Simple account empowers customers with powerful budgeting and savings tools built right into their account. These tools show customers how much money they have to spend and help people save for specific goals like vacations. Their website and mobile apps are clean, simple and easy to use. Simple gives people tools to help themselves, while still making sure knowledgeable, friendly people are there to help when you need them.


The company’s biggest challenge is customer acquisition. Despite their current dissatisfaction, it is difficult to get customers to change and leave their current bank. Changing banks is a lot of work.

Would you leave your current bank if a better more human option was available?


The C.F Hathaway Company was founded in Waterville, Maine in 1837. The company made shirts for Union soldiers during the Civil War. The company built the ready to wear shirt business in the United States.

For over 100 years, the company succeeded without advertising. In 1951, Ellerton Jette President and Owner decided it was time to expand Hathaway and build it into a national brand. Like other small business owners, he didn’t have much money. However, that did not prevent him from thinking big. He had heard about the advertising talents of David Ogilvy. So he scheduled a meeting with Ogilvy. Hathaway’s ad budget was only $30,000 so his account was not that attractive to major advertising agencies. He knew he had only one chance to forge a relationship with one of advertising’s most creative thinkers. To convince David Ogilvy to handle the account, Jette promised that he would never alter his copy or fire him. The agreement stood for over 20 years. Jette was smart enough to think beyond his own goals and understand the problems that advertising agencies face, clients that change copy and fire them at a moment’s notice.


While working on the ad campaign, Ogilvy became inspired by photos of politician Lewis Douglas sporting an eye patch and as a last-minute decision at the photo shoot decided to photograph a distinguished looking man wearing a white button-down Hathaway shirt and a black eye patch. The eye patch was a great story and created an emotional connection with consumers. Consumers wondered how the man had lost his eye. The story of the “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt”  advertising was very successful. When the ads ran in The New Yorker, Hathaway’s entire stock sold out. The company’s sales doubled in less than five years. The “Hathaway Man” campaign was selected by Advertising Age as #22 on its list of the greatest ad campaigns of the 20th century.

I have owned several Hathaway white button-dress shirts over the years and appreciated their quality. It’s hard to find a Hathaway shirt today.

The Hathaway Brand has struggled in recent years and has faded from most retail shelves. The brand has been sold several times. Its decline has been blamed on competition and the rise in the trend to casual wear. In 2002, Hathaway closed its manufacturing facility in Waterville, Maine. It was one of the last companies to manufacture shirts in the United States.

From my perspective, Hathaway is an iconic American Brand with a great story. It seems time for a re-launch.

Did you ever own a Hathaway Shirt?

Michael Kors is one of the hottest fashion brands in the world. It is an overnight sensation that has been 30 years in the making. Persistence pays off. Michael Kors was founded in 1981. Michael Kors has become a  strong global lifestyle brand with a broad appeal. The brand’s products have a “jet-set” aesthetic that is both stylish and sporty. Michael Kors sells affordable luxury. The affordable luxury segment has bounced back strong in 2013. The company sells accessories, footwear and apparel in upscale department stores and its own stores. Michael Kors is the “it” brand in this segment of the market. Michael Kors has surpassed Coach as the number one luxury fashion brand.

Success in the fashion industry is often fleeting. However Michael Kors is currently enjoying fame and success. The brand has done a great job connecting with the American fashion consumer. The brand has excelled because it has stayed focused on the market’s sweet spot — people with money who aren’t rich yet. Michael Kors has a strong understanding of the consumer he is designing for.


Michael Kors has generated a strong buzz in the market. Kors was a judge on “Project Runway” since it first aired in 2004. The exposure has been very important for the brand. It has built brand awareness with young fashion consumers. When Project Runway started in 2004, the Michael Kors Brand had brand awareness that was under 20%. Today over 70% of Americans are aware of the brand.

Michael Kors is also one of the fastest growing stocks in 2013. The stock price is up over 50% year this year. The brand went public in 2011. It had already surpassed Ralph Lauren in market value. The company has delivered impressive earnings growth the last few quarters and a recent pullback to its 50 day moving average may represent a buying opportunity for aggressive investors. Strong brands that understand their target audience continue to be a good investment.

It will be interesting to see if Michael Kors can continue its rapid growth. It is difficult to maintain that competitive edge. The key will be designing relevant products that meet the lifestyle needs of his target consumer and continuing to market in innovative ways. There is always a market for great design. In the short-term, I wouldn’t bet against Michael Kors.

Do you think the Michael Kors Brand can continue its explosive growth?

Many business people confuse marketing and branding. Most people don’t understand what a brand is. Many people think that branding is a logo or a logo design. Design is essential but design is not a brand. Some people think that you can whip up a brand overnight and build awareness instantly.


For me branding is simply about “Keeping Your Promises”. Brand’s like Zappos and Apple are known for delivering a great experience for consumers. Great brands consistently deliver on their promise. Great brands tell stories that are focused on why.

Branding is delivering on a differentiated promise to a consumer. No matter what you are doing, you are always branding your business. Branding is the perception, thoughts and emotions of your consumers.

Branding is a strategic asset, and shouldn’t be viewed as an expense. Marketing is an expense.

Branding is long-term. When we are clear about a brand building strategy we can direct the marketing tools. Without a proper brand building strategy, the marketing is a tactic in search of a strategy.

Marketing is focused on achieving short-term goals. Marketing usually services one main overall function, to sell.

The Brand is how people remember you, how they feel about you.  Emotions and memory are key components to the brand. Marketing then takes that brand and forms communication that takes advantage of that brand to send out a message.

The great thing about a Brand is that it can be constructed and formed to create that unique memory and feeling you wish to appeal to your specific target.  By clearly defining things like purpose, core values and personality you can create a brand positioning to use as a guide for effective marketing strategies.

Marketing communications not based on a well-defined brand send a message that is not differentiated. A great brand deserves a creative marketing strategy to best take advantage of that unique positioning.

Marketing is a “push” action, and branding is more “pull.”

A Brand is an experience, a story.

Which brands provide the best customer experience?

I enjoy stories of entrepreneurs who follow a passion and start a business. I am also a fan of specialty candy stores and wrote about one of my favorite stores Harbor Candy in Ogunquit, Maine earlier in the year. I discovered Sugarfina in a story about the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2013 on I was intrigued so I decided to dig a little deeper into the story behind their success.

Sugarfina is an online luxury candy boutique that offers a selection of the finest candies from around the world. Sugarfina is designed for adults not kids. Sugarfina is attempting to reinvent the candy category by targeting “foodies”. They offer the highest quality candy with an emphasis on premium all-natural ingredients. Sugarfina was founded in 2012 by Rosie O’Neill and Josh Resnick who dreamed of opening a candy boutique ever since their third date. That night they attended a screening of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


Sugarfina’s gourmet candy collection is unique. They offer exotic candies such as Champagne Gummy Bears, Matcha Green Tea Caramel, Licorice Cubes and Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee. They offer more than 140 different candies. Sugarfina’s candies are sourced globally from artisan producers in the United States, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and beyond. Many of the products that Sugarfina sells are exclusive to them in the United States.


One of things that differentiates Sugarfina is design. Each candy is packaged individually in transparent cubes and neatly packed into bento boxes inspired by Tiffany.

Sugarfina has been described as a “pleasure” as opposed to a “guilty” pleasure. The candies contain ingredients that are good and good for you. These ingredients include nuts, green tea, all kinds of fruit, high cacao chocolate and coffee beans.

Sugarfina has received a lot of positive press. Sugarfina made the “O List” Food Edition in Oprah Winfrey Magazine in August. Sugarfina has also been featured in a number of magazines including InStyle, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Forbes and Travel and Leisure to name a few.

In January, Sugarfina became the first candy partner on Facebook’s gift platform. Revenues are expected to top $1 million in 2013.

Have you tried Sugarfina premium candies?

Many products and brands have become successful because they provided a solution to a consumer problem. Great designers are problem solvers. They are not afraid to question everything. Designer Michael Keen began by asking a simple design question: “Can a Sandal Protect your Toes?”.

His ah-ha moment came from his experience as a competitive sailor. Until Keens came along, serious sailors never wore sandals or flip-flops.  Too many stubbed toes! So Keen came up with the Newport Sandal and dubbed it a hybrid – somewhere between a shoe and a sandal. Newport Sandals feature a thick black bumper covering the toes. Keen found a market among sailors and people who pursued other outdoor and water activities.


KEEN Footwear was introduced to the market in 2003 by Martin Keen and Rory Fuerst. It was a product that was so unique, some people thought it was ugly, that it demanded attention. KEEN Footwear quickly built a cult following among people who love to play outdoors. Sales reached $1.5 million in just three months and have grown rapidly over the past 10 years. Today, KEEN, which is based in Portland, Oregon has an impressive collection of shoes, sandals, bags and socks. Revenues are estimated at close to $200 Million.

KEEN expanded the idea of one Hybrid Shoe, into a lifestyle statement, HybridLife. HybridLife is the KEEN mantra, a commitment to create solutions in product and business practices, to design footwear, bags and socks that enable you to play anyplace without a ceiling; and a promise to care for each other and world around us. KEEN offers innovative hybrid products that enable outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy an active lifestyle.


KEEN shoes are not high fashion, but they’re highly functional and amazingly comfortable. They appeal to just about anyone who loves to play outdoors. I have a pair of KEEN sandals that are very comfortable and highly functional. They have seen the coasts Northern and Southern California, the rocky coasts of Maine, the shores of Lake George and many other destinations.

KEEN is a company with a unique culture and a commitment to a purpose that goes beyond making money. When it comes to caring, KEEN walks the talk. When the tsunami hit Thailand and Indonesia in 2004, KEEN donated its entire marketing budget for the year, almost $500,000, to tsunami recovery efforts. Since then Keen has donated over $5 million to non-profits that share “a philosophy of caring, conscience and sustainability.

KEEN encourages its employees to volunteer in the community, offering up to 36 hours of paid time each year to participate in volunteer activities. KEEN developed an advertising campaign that encourages people to rekindle one of the favorite parts of their childhood and incorporate Recess into their adult lives.

KEEN built a successful and growing company by designing a product to solve a consumer problem.

Do you own a pair of KEEN sandals or shoes?

Herman Miller is one of the most respected brands and innovative design companies in the world. Herman Miller seamlessly integrates design into the essence of their brand. At Herman Miller design matters. In fact, its design or die. For Herman Miller, Brand Design is not an after thought in the process– it is the central thought.


Herman Miller is an iconic furniture maker, responsible for a suite of cutting-edge products designed to improve the office work environment. Herman Miller was founded in 1923 in Zeeland, Michigan by D.J. De Pree and Herman Miller.

By the middle of the 20th century, the name Herman Miller had become synonymous with “modern” furniture. Working with legendary designers George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames, the company produced pieces that would become classics of industrial design. George Nelson is responsible for creating a design philosophy at Herman Miller that lives today. Nelson believed that good design is honest, an integral part of business, and that a market exists for it.

Herman Miller has collaborated with some of the top designers in the world, including Alexander Girard, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Propst, Bill Stumpf, Don Chadwick, Ayse Birsel, Studio 7.5, Yves Béhar and Doug Ball.

Herman Miller’s mission is to strive to create a better world around you—with inspiring designs and inventive services that enhance the places where people work, heal, learn and live, and through its commitment to social responsibility. Their goal is to design a better world around you. The Herman Miller approach is to focus on problem solving design. They learn as much from their failures as their successes. While it’s known for its furniture, Herman Miller considers itself a set of problem solvers. When a new product is considered, it is common for employees from all areas of the company to collaborate on creating design and production solutions. In this way, employees become personally connected to the company’s products.


The company believes that its employees are Brand Ambassadors and critical to building the brand. The brand culture is guided by the following aspirations:

  • Curiosity and Exploration – taking risks and learning from mistakes
  • Engagement – working together to understand problems and develop solutions
  • Relationships – good relationships with customers, designers, dealers, suppliers and contractors are the basis of their worldwide network
  • Inclusiveness – we respect all expressions of human talent and potential. We value the unique perspectives, qualities, and contributions of every person in our community.
  • Design – our method for solving problems. It involves asking, looking, thinking, daydreaming, discussing, tinkering, failing, and trying again. It’s messy, but it works.
  • Foundations – the people, stories and experiences of our past give us a strong foundation for building our future
  • Performance – Not a choice. We perform at the highest level of our individual and collective capabilities, every day. 
  • Transparency – We let each other see how decisions get made. We take responsibility for the decisions we make.
  • A Better World – The opportunity to contribute to a better world makes our work meaningful and rewarding.

This focus on employee engagement has resulted in Herman Miller being recognized for a number of awards. In 2010, Herman Miller was one of only six companies to make Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For”, Fortune’s Most Admired list and Fast Company’s “Fast 50” most innovative companies. Herman Miller seems like a great brand and company to work for.

The Aeron chair is one of Herman Miller’s most popular products. It was designed in 1994 by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf. Its design has a spot in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. The Industrial Designers Society of America named it one of the “Designs of the Decade for the 1990’s. The Aeron chair was very popular during the dotcom heyday in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Internet companies ordered them by the truckload. In late 2000, the company was taking order for 20,000 to 30,000 per week.


In the early 2000’s, Herman Miller saw sales decline following the dot-com bubble. The company turned its fortunes around by focusing on innovative brand design that helped solve consumer problems.

Do you own any Herman Miller furniture?