When it comes to branding, it is important to talk about the difference between design and style. In everyday terms, we often interchangeably use these words meaning the same. However, they are not the same thing.
Style is more concerned with visuals or outer look of a product. It creates important aesthetic value for consumers. On the other hand, design is more concerned with the basic layout of a product with its core functionality and user experience in mind. For example, assume that someone copies the outer look of an iphone (this would be illegal) but the phone operates with Android OS, then the “style” is the same as iphone but the “design” is not. The phone is, at least aesthetically, styled like iphone, but it is designed to operate like any other Android phone. On another note, if a motorbike is colored differently to attract college going students, with some minor changes to make it look like an alien vehicle, we are talking about style here, and not the design. Can the style affect the design aspect in some cases? It could. If the alien style of the chassis makes it easier for the bike to reduce air-resistance and achieve a smoother ride, then we can say the style has its “design effect”. Can the design influence the style in other cases? It could. If a product like a pair of sunglasses is “designed” to use in a sunny day, then it would be “styled” with dark colors to achieve its design objective. The dark color is the inevitable “style effect” of design objective in mind.
As brand professionals, we must be sure to think about which one we are going to change for creating a superior customer value. While both types of changes may create superior customer value, it is usually the design change that is more often looked upon as revolutionary by customers. Sometimes it might be the change in style that can give us added mileage against competitors. At the end, it is always helpful to see the fine line between the two.