I once worked on a project for rebranding a small Japanese baby stroller brand. Considering how difficult and cumbersome it still is to travel with a stroller in Japanese cities, this said stroller brand’s designs were unusually large, and equipped with heavy wheels. There are still many train stations in Japan without elevators and the trains are often over-crowded, so much so that commuters often look upon people with strollers with disdain. Stroller designs in Japan are therefore predominantly compact and light, easily folded, with plastic wheels.
In direct opposition to this, the said brand designed a heavy-weight, large-sized stroller. The reason behind this stemmed from their central and basic belief that a stroller should first and foremost protect a baby. The wheels were heavy with fitted ball bearings allowing the baby to rest easy and be transported safely. However, due to the size and weight, customer reaction had largely been negative. Despite having an entirely different approach, the brand somewhat apologetically mimicked the same marketing strategies as the predominant small, light-weight strollers. In the course of the rebranding, we tried to find a way to communicate the brand in a way that best served the brand’s core idea. We decided to think of their strollers more as a vehicle and developed tools in order to explain why a vehicle needed to be heavy or large.
Through this experience, I realized that the role of the designer is also about understanding and sympathizing with the essence of what the business owner is trying to convey, and to work with them in finding how best to convey this, and in a way that is relatable to customers. I found that small business owners might have a wonderful or innovative idea, but often lack the know-how and confidence of taking the next step in communicating this to a wider audience.