Soap to Nuts.

A college professor once told me it was harder, and more challenging, to work on a brand of bar soap than a line of German sports cars. His point was that anyone can make a sports car look good but it takes a really creative person to come up with new ideas to sell a bar of soap.

Before taking up a role in education he had successfully managed several advertising campaigns for non-fad products, including Ivory soap. So I took what he said to heart.

After reading this weeks New York Times Magazine apparently I’m not the only one to get the message.

Three years ago Eric Ryan, “a style and brand fanatic”, decided the dish soap market was missing something — a well designed product. So he got together with a chemical engineering friend and created Method Home Care.

The result is a dish soap product that functions great but is designed so well that it received a design distinction award from I.D. magazine.

“Design is a fast way to make these products more high interest,” Ryan says, to the target audience of ”progressive domestics.” Environmental safety was ”a goal,” one that he still sounds almost surprised to have achieved. But form is what really sells some $10 million of the stuff annually.

I’m not an expert in the soap market, but I know that when a three year old business starts giving well established corporations (remember where ‘soap operas’ come from) a run for their money and retail shelf space it’s a pretty big deal. What’s more remarkable to me is the success of this common household product is almost solely being credited to the packaging’s design.

Lately I keep reading about the plight of the designer trying to sell the importance of good design to a client, boss, or co-worker. Even I have a friend who keeps telling me that I am not affordable.

Great design can turn heads, win awards, and earn enough free press to not need a traditional advertising budget. And it’s not just for German sports cars, laptops, or products targeted towards Tweens.

If a guy can sell $10 Million dollars worth of soap mostly because he made it look like art then imagine what could be done with other overlooked, everyday products and services. Including the web.