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On good design

Last summer, Zach Mortice published this article in Metropolis talking about two new buildings in Chicago. Here is his architectural description of the first:

Ross Barney’s design is unabashedly cosmopolitan, yet welcoming. Conceived as a series of interlocking Miesian pavilions, it comprises a glass cube containing the dining room and a smaller opaque volume, which holds the kitchen. The glass envelope shows off the restaurant’s burly cross-laminated timber beams, the first time this ultra-strong, low-carbon structural system has been used in Chicago. The exterior pergola is clad with solar panels and provides shade across an entire city block while also generating most of the restaurant’s energy. With a landscaped plaza and outdoor seating, there’s a strong focus on attracting pedestrians to this green-starved section of the city, with a landscaped plaza and outdoor seating.

Zach is describing the then new flagship McDonald’s in the River North area of Chicago. That’s maybe not what you were thinking as you were reading the description, but it is, of course, part of a broader transformation for the brand:

“We don’t need to be loud anymore,” says David Vilkama, McDonald’s global creative director. “We’re trying to move away from the old, cheap, plasticky, in-your-face fast food culture.”

It is a clear example of the value of good design and also how it has seemingly become table stakes for many firms and industries. 

But as Zach points out in this article, is this also evidence that brands need to, not only invest in good design, but also move upmarket in order to maintain growth?

In other words: Does good design inevitably equal more expensive?

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