Last year, at the British Museum, I had the privilege of holding a remarkable artifact in my bare hand. It was an African hand axe fashioned from a flint-like stone. While I wouldn't have recognised it as an axe, it was clear once it was in my palm that its design was beautifully functional and there was only one way to hold it. It was like shaking hands with the man who had made and used it somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million years ago.
This came to mind when, in the midst of innumerable comments in reaction to Kathy's Sierra's, ode to Swiss banknotes, I read the following from "cheep'.
"Most of the economics work I've done suggests it's utilitarianism in the U.S. For the majority of things people consume, advanced design is a heuristic for poor value..... for most consumables and mid to low cost items, products are purposely designed in a dumbed down fashion to cue the buyer that it is cheaper."
It's clear that there's a lot of truth in this both on the basis of the appearance of supermarket shelves and also from the division engendered by the design of Apple products - users are impassioned disciples while the dissidents are convinced that they are too expensive (even if objective assessors argue that you actually get more for your buck). But if it's true that producers are keying in on national puritansim, then they are definitely missing a trick because imbuing a product with true desirability via exceptional design is surely cheaper than attempting to brand it as such.
Moreover, good design doesn't necessitate fripperies or an expensive appearance that might raise doubts about value for money, but rather like the hand axe it can generate a deep connection and in some relative sense make the most prosaic product an object of desire.