As a graphic designer, I’m drawn to ideas and concepts that are at the intersection of design, fashion, and the media. I recently came across a new website, www.Mrs-O.org, that focuses on the fashions of one of our country’s historical female icons. She’s become the focus of fashionistas and speculation galore. If you’re thinking of Jackie O, you’re mistaken; it’s the other Mrs. O – Mrs. Michelle Obama.
Her fashion decisions over the last several months have been under close inspection by the media, the American public, and fashion designers alike. Anticipation of what the new first lady was going to wear to the Inauguration and the ball later that evening was comparable in some circles to that of her husband’s nomination to the Oval Office. Her ball gown selection will go down in history and will join the other Inaugural gowns in the Smithsonian’s collection. Instead of playing it safe as former first ladies have, choosing a safe name such as Oscar de la Renta, Michelle went with a young Taiwan-born designer named Jason Wu. The gown was a beautiful winter white, one-shouldered and covered with organza flowers and crystals.
Michelle’s selection – and the media discourse that followed – reinforces a simple truth that holds meaning for individuals, business, and organizations alike: design matters. For Michelle, her inaugural gown is more than just a gown. It is, according to historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony, “a metaphor for the first lady role. [It] reflects around the world an image of our country.” Anthony describes Michelle’s choice as “a balancing act between being a queen and a commoner” – a particularly prudent and refreshing decision in a tough economic climate that has given birth to fashion-conscious “recessionistas.”
In business, many companies strive for a similar balance – projecting corporate professionalism while at the same time being able to connect with customers and clients on personal and relevant terms. For them, design carries through their website, marketing materials, presentations, and client touch points.
Needless to say, just about every company could learn something from the new Mrs. O and put a little more thought into how design is relevant to their bottom line.