I grew up in the Minneapolis area and have watched two local retailers grow to be huge national chains, namely Best Buy and Target. (I remember when Best Buy was “The Sound of Music” and most of the stores were the size of an average two car garage.) One reason I like Target so much is they really get the concept of well designed “things”. Even though you are buying an everyday item, it doesn’t have to look that way. If something as simple as a coffee maker is pleasing to look at and easy to operate, that will probably brighten someone’s day. Make those items within reach of the average public, and you are probably doing society as a whole a favor. Walk into a Wal-Mart and you are literally beat over the head with mediocrity, bland design and a garish store layout that literally sucks the will to live out of you.
From a post on Boing Boing, I see Target commissioned an industrial designer to design a new pill bottle for their pharmacy. This probably goes well beyond brightening someone’s day to hopefully making something like having to take some drug daily a little more bearable and less accident prone.
I highly doubt you’d see Wal-Mart doing anything like this. I wish more people would take design seriously – both in real world as well as computer world (just ask your friendly neighborhood Microsoft Support system how easy our internal support case management system is to use).