How “Category Creators” Inspire and Empower Customers

If a picture paints a thousand words, a stellar design is loaded with personality, sensory experiences, and paradigm-shifting ideas.


Rather than focusing solely on building an image, some design strategists suggest that carving out a unique niche is more valuable. These visionary individuals, known as category creators, are like "missionaries" who envision markets as they could be, introducing fresh ideas and experiences while guiding others toward new possibilities.

Instead of viewing the profit pie as having limited slices, category creators produce net-new resources—innovative assets and ideas entirely novel to the market—and boldly share a vision for a future that's not quite visible to others.

Think Bigger with Your Next Design

As you aspire to design striking ads, websites, or print marketing pieces, ponder these questions:

  • What is the niche your business "owns?"
  • What are you on a mission to do? How are you creating brand-new, never-before-done resources or opportunities that will fundamentally change people's experiences?
  • Do your marketing pieces reflect this?
  • How will your designs create a sense of wonder about reality as it "could be?"

Here are three real-world applications:

1. Instead of fighting over a "one pot at a time" coffee market share, Keurig generated billions by offering the single-serve freedom of a personalized cup. 472-Coffee.jpg

2. Rather than battling for an inch of the cut-throat hotel industry, Airbnb unlocked real-estate sharing and revolutionized travel.

3. Breaking out of the personal computing market, Apple embodied the essence of category creation with its iconic "Think Different" campaign.

Learning from Apple's Evolution

Consider Apple's evolution from a focus on computers to broader technology. During this time, its branding entered an awkward stage. PowerBooks, iPods, and other products had a monochrome logo. Meanwhile, iMac designs and their operating systems were more colorful and translucent.

In 2007, as Apple sought to forge an industry-transforming identity, it brought flat and flashy together with a chrome logo. Apple used the logo online, in print and advertising campaigns, and on every product. The clean, minimalist concept communicated the essence of Apple's growing category dominance: its products were pristine and elite in form and function.

Communicating Category Creation in Your Designs

To communicate the spirit of category creation in your designs, try these angles:

1. Celebrate and share greatness and beauty. The initial success of TOMS shoes came from elevating Argentina's national shoe and pairing it with philanthropic enterprising.

2. Give customers the power of choice. Just as Keurig puts possibilities in customers' hands, how can your design inspire and empower people to enjoy something perfectly tailored to their preferences?


3. Highlight messages that inspire and create abundance. Uber created income for drivers everywhere by sharing its profitable niche with millions of car owners. Its vision? To "ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion."

Meaningful categories propel meaningful companies. Design yours today!

The Category Design Toolkit: Beyond Marketing: 15 Frameworks For Creating & Dominating Your Niche

by Christopher Lochhead, Eddie Yoon, Nicolas Cole

Christopher Lochhead, Eddie Yoon, and Nicolas Cole—otherwise known as the Category Pirates—are the leaders of Category Creation and Category Design thinking in the digital age. And in The Category Design Toolkit, they walk readers through 15 absolutely mind-altering frameworks for how to see business, life, and the way people organize information into "categories" in their minds. Are you a B2B enterprise software company? Do you sell plastic widgets on Amazon? Maybe you're a small business owner, a biotech entrepreneur, or a YouTuber. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do. In order to have a meaningful impact on the world, in order to become known for a niche you own, and in order to dominate your industry in a way that separates you from any and all competition, you must create your own category.