Interesting Q&A installment in the Dec. 30th New York Times' with Yves Béhar, founder of the San Francisco design firm Fuseproject - a good way to usher out 2010 and think about what this '10's decade really holds in store for us. And beyond that, whither the brand in an age of consumer-generated content and the desire for the big R, ''relevance''?

When asked what he thinks design will be all about in 2011, Béhar's response really gives pause for thought:

"To me, this year is the promised year.  We spent 40 or 50 years subservient to marketing and advertising, but I think the Internet and social network revolution have really brought a much more direct level of communication.  Rather than succumbing to the brand message, people are very centered on the product and their expectations of what the product should deliver as far as relevance, technology, simplicity, sustainability, and health."

And this, on the role of social activism:

"There's a little brand that we built that's doing incredibly well - the Pact underwear line.  I felt that nothing new had come about in the last 25 years in the underwear business, since Calvin Klein with the big elastic band, big logo and sexy ads. Does that still inspire twenty somethings? Or is that just the way things are done?

What we found is that by bringing together the notions of sustainability and doing good — every six weeks, we do a new collection with a nonprofit and give back 10 percent of our sales to that nonprofit — we created a whole different reason for people to be purchasing and wearing a product, rather than hollow advertising messages. Advertising is the price companies pay for being unoriginal."

          

Béhar makes some good points - take a look at a CK ad and ask yourself, 'how is that relevant?'  'what does it mean to me?'  Brands can continue to be meaningful in the coming years, but they must have meaning beyond the name and logo and profitability for the brand owner.  Brands must connect with consumers, but in a relevant way if they don't want to be left in the dust of 2011 and beyond.

Where does relevance come from?   Here's a start (from http://www.articlesbase.com):

  • Content: is at the center of developing and expressing quality and purpose of brands
  •  Interaction: Developing a message of value that clients and customers can identify with and share. Getting involved with your clients online is key.
  • Identity: to create a clear message that clients are able to place personal value to. What do they get from you logo?  Copy?  Promotional material?  Would you purchase the services?
  • Practical: Focusing on a solution based branding message.


It's important to add, that it's not all about relevance - as Béhar reminds us, technology, sustainability, and other important elements that increasingly matter to consumers, such as simplicity and health.

Here are some of Béhar's designs:

1.  The Learning shoe - with data chip that creates a personalized fit.




2.  The Leaf lamp and Sayl chair - she the photo of at the top Béhar at the top.

3.  One Laptop Per Child Generation 3