In Beauty Is Free, Mimi Zou argues that quality has become a given in most products, so beautiful design is one of the primary ways to differentiate in a crowded market:
In a time when products outlast their reliability expectations, has aesthetic longevity become the new expiration date? While it’s not viable to design for changing tastes, it remains that the aesthetics of a product should always be given great emphasis: be it physical, digital or a manifestation of both. Keeping vitality in mind, the aesthetics of a good product should complement its functionality and be made with full intent. The most insightful designs are those which are not only competitive in quality and cost, but also uncompromising in aesthetics.
I’ve always defended aesthetics in web design in particular by arguing that it builds trust, increases engagement, and elicits the appropriate emotional responses to the brand (i.e., consistent with the brand promise).
This article gives us another reason to push for a relentless focus on good aesthetics: since most products now have a baseline quality that is good enough, users expect beautiful products.