You can tell how a man will treat his wife by how he treats his mother. Along those same lines, I would argue: You can tell how much an industry values design by how it treats its designers.
When I attended Euroluce in Milan this April, there was nary a product on display that didn’t only acknowledge its designer, but also celebrate these individuals in prominent signage that had equal billing with their creations. Sure, some of those designers were famous, but all of them felt famous as a result of this recognition, lending just as much clout to the pieces on view as would a more familiar face and name.
Why doesn’t that work here? Or would it, if we dared try it? Certainly some designers already receive special emphasis when a collection they designed is introduced, particularly if they have notoriety or a stellar track record for success in our industry. But unless that person is also a celebrity among consumers, that emphasis is rarely carried into the retail environment.
Maybe it’s not even so much about lauding the brilliance of an aesthetic elite as creating a personal connection between the end user and the hands (and minds) that touched a lamp or fixture on its way into his or her home. Another impressive presentation at Euroluce was a full exterior wall of the Ares booth featuing a life-sized, black-and-white group photo of the company’s entire team of employees, including all of their names. In addition to being a fun flipside to the Studio Ares “nightclub” on the opposite end of the sprawling space, it was like a clever way to roll the credits for everyone who made the appearance possible.
In contrast, it seems like North American showrooms don’t even want to connect product back to a particular manufacturer, lest it be searched and sourced online for less. This is certainly changing in the face of improved IMAP enforcement (and with Internet sales tax one step closer to becoming a reality at press time), but there’s still this air of mystery around most designs you’ll find at a lighting retailer — as if elves made it. Or worse yet, no one.
Anonymous product is just one subjective judgment away from being generic product. And it’s hard to add any perceived value to generic product. But a little marketing savvy can maximize the mileage from a designer’s bio. It starts with how this message comes across at market, but it doesn’t end until a satisfied customer is done telling the backstory of a fabulous find to family and guests ... which could be never, if we set them up for a lasting relationship with the designer who made it all possible. As with any great love story, it all starts with a memorable introduction.