Great Design Is the Key to True Product Differentiation

What does everyone truly want from their business? According to Todd Bracher, founder and creative director of Todd Bracher Studio, it’s not profit, market dominance, or even survival—it’s love. If customers love your products and services, they become brand ambassadors, and then everything else that follows becomes so much easier.

“You need best-in-class design,” Bracher said, speaking at Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore earlier this month. “And by that, we mean product that exceeds expectations.”

He offered an example involving 3M, the American manufacturing conglomerate that makes everything from sticky tape to protective equipment and electronic circuits. The company wanted to enter the architecture and design market with a new lighting product. Working with 3M, Bracher began his search for context and differentiation by mapping out the factors that govern the decision-making process. His objective was to find something that was unique to 3M. During an informal chat with Bracher, one of 3M’s scientists said, “Light is 100% predictable.” For the scientist, physical properties such as light are completely under his control. This kind of power isn’t typical in the lighting industry, so Bracher immediately knew that this was the seed he was looking for.

Working with this idea, 3M took a highly reflective material it manufactures that it normally uses to control light in mobile devices and redeployed it as architectural lighting. The material is one of the most reflective in the world, allowing the final product to light an entire wall with six small LEDs by cascading light across multiple connected units in a precise, controlled way. After many iterations and significant effort, “we arrived at something never seen before,” Bracher said. All it took was clever design to help light the way.

For more coverage of Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference, click here.

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