Professional design is very conceptual. There is an idea about what something should be and why. It’s a mix of professionalism, creativity, rationality and personality. The designer makes something and iterates until there is a version that fits best to match the interests of the producer and his clients.
Or does it?
Changing products on the web, like websites, is difficult. With comments and social networks readers are in direct contact. Reader don’t like change. And they are right. Change disrupts routines. Radical changes forces you – as a user – to rethink a product or service. What is this, why do I come here, where can I find…
Even if the new design is better, radical changes will only work when there is a big improvement for the user. You have to make sure the balance is right. You loose something (control) and you win something (a much better future experience).
From virtual to reality
The voice of your readers is strong on the web because they unite on your website. And it happens live. Readers can collectively turn against business changes a company make. The user is not the consumer, but part of the process.
This started on websites, but social networks take it further. Because people can easily gather creating groups and exchange information the power of each individual can be more amplified with less effort and at higher speed. This reflects to the physical world. People can online disagree about a product design update and this collective emotional disagreement amplified by groups and networks can demand a company to reverse a design strategy.
Brands out of control
Brands are experiencing the social pressure of users. It is not even about the physical product that changes, but about changes in presentation. The product identity is becoming something that grows much more out of the direct control of the creator.
The Pepsi logo update (brand doc. pdf) was not seen as a very popular improvement. Lawrence Yang, a San Francisco based designer busted the logo by turning the logo into a fat drinker. This is the kind of online creativity that is killing for the concept of a logo.
You can even buy the busted logo on a t-shirt.