The tail end of technology, and how we choose

Tylenol and HelpWe are in the midst of a very rough flu season in the New York area, and lots of suffering people are wandering the drug store aisles in search of relief. These days it comes in many forms.

But apparently the way we make choices, including for cold remedies, is evolving. With more concern about how it makes us feel and less about what’s inside the pill.

For instance, the last time you bought a car did you lift the hood and discuss valve timing with the salesperson, or when you bought your last piece of mobile technology did you ask how many megahertz the device operates at, or when you bought that box of Tylenol did you care whether it was loaded with plenty of Chlorpheniramine Maleate? Well I didn’t, and it turns out we may have design to blame.

As an article in the today’s NY Times’ Bits column, written by Nick Bilton points out, we care less and less about the mysterious technology of the things we buy and more about the experience of using objects and yes their design. Certainly the image above demonstrates that point clearly. For me the Help Remedies package makes the decision really easy, Tylenol makes it really hard.

As John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design points out in the piece, “We’re on the tail end of technology being special. The automobile was a weird alien technology when it first debuted, then, after a while, it evolved and designers stepped in to add value to it.”

I would suggest that there are a host a consumer product areas that are also on the tail end of technology, where consumers simply don’t care about the stuff that’s in the product as much as how it makes them feel. Some marketers are catching on.

About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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