I would like to share a short story about how design really matters. It is one of my favorites and it happened in the automotive field, specifically Ford Motors. It was during the turbulent decade of the 1960s, and younger Americans were looking for something to call their own, especially when it came to cars.
Ford had a line of cars that were labeled under the brand "Falcon". The line had not been not selling well for years because they were perceived as under-powered and stodgy--a heavy handed carry-over from the 1950s. To be fair, Falcon really did look like a hold-over from the mid 1950s and, to make it worse, completely lacking in personality.
The line was never in danger of being shut down. In fact, sales were fairly robust, especially in European markets that liked its compact size and ease of maintenance. However, Ford really wanted it to sell domestically. One day, a Ford design team came forward with a suggestion for the Falcon: re-design the body, give it the new "muscle car" look that young Americans wanted, but keep everything else the same--same chassis, same engine, same wheel-base. Therefore, if the new design worked, there would be no need to re-tool the assembly line.
In less than a year, they had the design, and test marketing showed real promise. So much so, they gave it a name, "Mustang". Pretty soon, the Mustang was geared up for full production. When it began to hit the streets, Mustang was an instant hit.
Life is all about perceptions. Consumers were convinced the Mustang was fast, powerful and definitely sexy. They wanted it. And yet, under the all-new body works, the Mustang was really the Falcon.
Today, the Falcon is still being made and sold. It has the sleek lines most cars have today, but we all know that it is always going to play back seat to the Mustang.