How conceptual design adds value to the commercial market by Esra Lemmens

How conceptual design adds value to the commercial market by Esra Lemmens

Esra Lemmens, designer and author of the book “conceptual commercialism – commercial conceptualism” delves into the dynamics of creativity and commerce.

Modern commercial design includes conceptual work as well as projects – an interesting phenomenon that triggers social, economic, educational and cultural questions. It is a challenge to translate conceptual ideas into commercial reality while maintaining a balance between the concept and trying to reach the right audience.

I have tried to find evidence and reasons for the design decisions made before executing the design. Over the last two decades, the idea developed that design does not only have a functional value, it should also be able to tell a story.

Nowadays design seems to be more easily capable of moving from one world to another; we see designers who are presenting their prototypes in galleries and museums.

Collaborations with conceptual designers, as well as commercial parties, are not new. What fascinates me is how designers work and collaborate in order to maintain a strong position.

I consider it to be my responsibility to coach them and contribute to this environment while shaping the future of the design world.

Conceptual and commercial design can play an important role in shaping the future. The common ways of producing and consuming are under pressure because of wealth inequalities, environmental degradation and resource scarcity.

The role of design has become a key economic issue and the challenge is not just how to design better products and techniques, but how to satisfy the demand for entirely new business models.

Design is more widely perceived as a tool used for driving innovation and economic growth, but also as a means of ensuring a sustainable future.

Commercial brands compete through products and services that have a radically different purpose: to convey an entirely new reason for consumers to buy them. They are not only selling a consumer product, or even a branded product. They are selling an emotional product.

Today, almost everything depends on design. ‘Design thinking’ teaches us how we think about, or use design products and provides an insight into why we wish to purchase these items. Therefore, it could act as a bridge between technology and art, ideas and results, culture and commerce.

In fact, studies show that design is closely connected to the economic development and sustainability of regions and nations. Therefore, each aspect of design needs to be promoted proactively, in order to consolidate competitiveness.

Designers, as well as society in general, have challenged the perception of design itself by accepting the vast influence design has had on the quality of life.

Because design can evoke intense emotions, it is critical to consider the ethical, aesthetic, and sensory experiences.

We are living in amazing times with digital media, demographic trends, dynamic individual and political structures, globalisation, sustainability and a constant flow of new technologies. All of these developments create opportunities and challenges for design.

Design has become part of the global culture and is not only specific to designers.

Through innovation, the differentiation between products, services and brands have diminished. For example, technological advances can become outdated within a few months.

Therefore, the distinction comes mainly from the brand’s cultural value, represented by its aesthetics and in many cases its social impacts.

Commercial design mirrors society and since society is constantly changing, commercial design has to be able to anticipate these changes in order to maintain its right to exist.


A new visual culture is replacing the world of linearity. The global knowledge society is evolving at breakneck speed. Never before in the history of mankind have so many had access to such an abundance of information, easily accessible anytime, anywhere. This access to information is the key to success and to survival in social, cultural, economic, technological and environmental terms.

However, even though what is offered is information, the ultimate goal is knowledge. Ultimately, this is what is valuable. If designers are communicators in the process of changing paradigms, they use their design style to express and communicate each of these values, whether they belong to the past or the present.

In addition, design is essential, but could be rendered useless without a new way of thinking.

In my view, design is not just about making things. As a designer, one must also be aware of the impact that one has on people, and indeed on the world. It could be argued that designing for the sake of design makes no sense. In other words, while we keep designing the next best chair we could be running out of fossil fuel.

The days when one person could conceive, develop, produce, and sell a designed object, are long gone.

Designers play a key role in communicating through their designs at a high level; one could even think of it as communication on a universal level.

This indicates the importance of the function of design. Ultimately, this communication, and these projects, are beneficial to both the designer and the commercial company.

These collaborative projects communicate new patterns of consumption and an original sense of value, by proposing a new relationship between user and object.

When I speak of a sense of value, imagine the impact that designers could have on topics such as sustainability or the future of our society.

Along with this shared language, a new principle for conceptual design has made its appearance: the principle of legibility. And the demand for immediacy and directness is connected with that legibility.

The potential of design is that it can create and communicate values. There is no difference between conceptual design and commercial design when it comes to communicating.

Communication is vital for both fields, since both create visual communication; through this visual communication they sell products. Conceptual designs become commercial when the audience is triggered to get to know the story behind the design. Thus, designers hold considerable responsibility for influencing culture, values and making our complex world understandable while shaping its future.

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