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Why Our Future Is Made In Beauty

Design, authenticity and meaning are all watch-words for future brands.

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Design, authenticity and meaning are all watch-words for future brands.

Opinions

Why Our Future Is Made In Beauty

Design, authenticity and meaning are all watch-words for future brands.

Share this article

We’ve all had enough of ugly. It’s not doing us any good. The language of beauty, especially in the world of business has been lost. Beauty has been separated out of commercial activity, seen to be expensive, elitist, non-relevant and superficial. Data and efficiency rules all. Fastest to the finish line of profit whatever the cost. Until, it costs everything.

In 2016 Walmart announced the closing of 269 stores globally, abandoning communities and economies. The consequence of a corporation run on poor employee pay and protection by management who took advantage of vulnerable people in depressed areas.

More ugly decision making led to the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal and sub-prime mortgages broke global finance. I think we’ve all had enough of ugly.

The act of creating something of beauty is a way of bringing good into the world. Infused with optimism, it says simply: Life is worthwhile. The effort to create enduring beauty is not dependent on style, but truth.

Beauty is what lends things their immortality, it gets us out of surfaces and into the foundations of things. Importantly, it also brings enduring profit. The time has come to rethink the role of business in our world and its overall contribution on our society. We need to reframe business in the context of beauty.

How do we get to beauty? 

Through the philosophy and practice of craft. We always have a choice of what it is that we create, since everything man-made is imagined, then made — crafted. What constrains us is our imagination and the will to apply it.

A craftsman asks two simple questions — is it useful and is it beautiful? We can use these two principles to reshape the world in which we live. Craftsmanship has always been good business.

What might businesses do to make their business beautiful? 

Everything, designed

Aesop is a retail business that sells quality products for the hair, skin and body. Created in a minimalist style it has 42 stores worldwide and is renowned for its committed attention to design and detail in everything it does, ‘why make something ugly when it can be interesting’ says its owner Dennis Paphitis.

Establishing the business in 1987, Paphitis already understood that a commitment to the ultimate customer experience is what makes his company sustainable and profitable.

Swedish Gransfor Bruks makes axes, the best axes in the world, sold all over the globe. However, this was not always the case. When Gabriel Branby bought the company it was failing as a business, its workforce demoralised, its products inferior and its business model broken.

Branby decided to make only the very best products with a lifetime guarantee. Using the minimal amount of materials to ensure their design was perfect for the task. He incentivized his workforce to make only high quality products that are useful, beautiful and enduring. Today, Gransfor Bruks is a company which is loved, trusted and profitable.

This is foundational work, the hard work of making beautiful things people love. You need an axe, why not make it a beautiful axe that lasts? You need to wash, why not make it an uplifting sensual experience, from the moment you step into the store to the moment you step into the shower.

The beautiful experience matters today

What we call experience reflects meaning, authenticity and an opportunity to recapture a lost essence in modern life. These are values that are difficult to represent in accounting terms, yet have an important and increasingly important role to play.

Look at the rise of artisan products; beer, gin, cheese, clothes etc, people are seeking out authenticity and meaning. There is a reason that we have seen a huge increase in the number of people going to festivals. People want to experience something that holds a meaningful connection and that, in turn, makes for a soulful, joyful life.

Crafting experience is business common sense

Other recent developments have also had a profound effect on the quest for a high quality experience. The average American spends 2 hrs 51 mins on their smart phone every day.

Touch screen technology combined with intuitive and simple to use apps mean our expectations of the quality of experience have increased as our ability to access new information, relationships and interests increases. Crafting meaningful customer experiences becomes a key business activity.

This is something Airbnb have understood, incorporating experience into their enterprise design. You can book a stay in say, Nairobi, to spend some time with a knowledgeable local who shares your interest in contemporary art.

Immersing you into the fabric of the artistic Nairobi art scene. Memories made of moments are crafted from end to end; the business model, the app, a life-affirming experience.

It is unsurprising that a growing number of Fortune 100 companies now see design as the top priority to their business evolution over the next five years.

Beautiful experiences, products, services, business models and cultures are all key components of what it takes to make a beautiful business. Beautiful Businesses are the future because they endure.

Alan Moore, author, speaker and craftsman of Beautiful Businesses.

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Why Our Future Is Made In Beauty

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