design vs. “return-on-investment”

I’m a designer by heart.  As such, I find no inspiration in making peoples lives cheaper; I only find inspiration in making their lives better.

ROI – Return On Investment – is a metric that bores me.  And I certainly can’t stand how the majority of the lighting industry is now selling LED technology primarily and almost exclusively on crude ROI sales pitches.  That is a losing argument for all involved.

Large swaths of the lighting industry are essentially “giving away” lighting to customers, trading energy costs for fixture costs.  You have really innovative technology companies like Cree, Digital Lumens, and basically anyone hawking LED street lighting taking this approach.

Unfortunately, figuring out ever-more innovative ways to give away product on a massive scale seems incredibly shortsighted.  This is much like William McDonough imploring that “less of bad thing” does not make something good.  You need “more of good thing“.  Unfortunately, much of the industry is simply too scared to try to invent or launch creative new applications that generate distinctive new value for customers.

Any company that sells a customer “free fixtures” is basically killing that client as a “customer”.  Whatever the next innovation is that the company hopes to launch, it better magically pay for itself somehow, otherwise the client won’t be interested.  All they want is an economic story, not a functional performance story.  I guess that’s fine for certain customers…but it certainly doesn’t motivate me to get out bed in the morning.