Design pieces bring stardust into environments

I was getting on a flight at the London City airport on Friday and had some time in my hands to explore the couple of airport shops they have there. Three of Tom Dixon Beat Lights (Fat, Tall and Wide) were hanging neatly above the cashier at the Hugo Boss store. The Beat Lights have spread like a wildfire and apparently the factory can’t make them fast enough to meet the demand. Design pieces were once seen as ‘artsy’. They were objects that only the intelligentsia would know how to use and appreciate. Today it is commonplace to use design pieces to upgrade any mainstream commercial spaces’ image.

Nando’s is a run-of-the-mill fast-food-for-the-masses operator in the UK selling spiced up chicken in retail park locations. They are the type of retail operator whom I would expect to make all interior design choices mostly based on price. Even Nando’s has understood the power of design and adopted Tom Dixon’s lamps in their restaurants on a large scale. You can find up to 40 lamps in every refurbished location.

McDonalds started the trend couple of years ago by using the Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen to lift the image of its restaurants. 2,500 original chairs were ordered but Mc Donald’s caused controversy by complementing the original ones with reproduction chairs in many of its restaurants. (In the UK the design copyright law expires after 25 years so this was completely legal. It is 70 years elsewhere in Europe.) The average customer would know nothing of this and was happily sitting on a piece of iconic design furniture while stuffing their face with burgers. Mc Donald’s had become cool again.

We see this same phenomenon of ‘instant branding ability’ when companies use of supermodels to endorse their brands. It is common practice to see Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell to give a brand that instant sex appeal. Supermodels themselves are brands that can quickly endorse other brands and turn brand promise into sales.

It is getting more and more difficult to differentiate brands through product or service so brand experience becomes extremely important. Most big brands are building their own retail store network, so it is interesting to see how design lamps and chairs are becoming the new supermodels. And Tom Dixon’s Beat Light lamp indeed acts like Naomi, it is ethnically accepted by all and instantly beautiful.