Design I

I've got three articles and one thing on my mind, let's see if we can make some connections.

Bruce Nussbaum writes column for Business Week about design. On June 28 he wrote about a speech he made at Innovation Night at the Royal College of Art in London the Tuesday before. Basically he talks about how he thinks CEOs and other business leaders need to be trained as designers because that the best way to see the bigger picture. The article is called CEOs Must Be Designers, Not Just Hire Them. Think Steve Jobs And iPhone. Some choice quotes:

"Designers are the sherpas of culture, the guides to community, the empathizers of the odd and foreign."

In my experience most businesses don't want to be this. They want to be what people already want, not what is strange and new.

"The commoditization of knowledge and tools around the world is leading to a Do It Yourself culture. The democratization of design and innovation is allowing both the wisdom and folly of crowds to directly shape products, services and brands. And the rise of Web 2.0 tools is leading to an explosion of new social networks that allow consumers—people—to be actively engaged in the conversations that shape their lives."

I truly get why people want to DIY, I am one of them. I have struggled how to reconcile my love to make and my loathe to buy. I love to make things. I want people to buy my things if I am going to survive as a designer. I don't really buy a lot of other people's things...I know it's more complex than that (I do buy homewares for example). But the big revelation for me came with the realization that I'd rather buy fewer better (more expensive) than loads of cheap crap.

"Design is so popular today mostly because business sees design as connecting it to the consumer populace in a deep, fundamental and honest way. An honest way. If you are in the myth-making business, you don’t need design. You need a great ad agency. But if you are in the authenticity and integrity business then you have to think design. If you are in the co-creation business today—and you’d better be in this age of social networking—then you have to think of design. Indeed, your brand is increasingly shaped and defined by network communities, not your ad agency. Brand manager? Forget about it. Brand curator maybe."

I feel like he's pushing more cheap crap. I know he says he's not.

"In the world of business, there is no value proposition left for most companies in controlling costs or even quality. All that outsourcing has leveled this playing field. Cost and quality are commoditized today, merely the price of entry to the competitive game."

This is a really important realization about the marketplace right now. In fact I think it supports my vision of the future.

"Design and design thinking—or innovation if you like--are the fresh, new variables that can bring advantage and fat profit margins to global corporations. In today’s global marketplace, being able to understand the consumer, prototype possible new products, services and experiences, quickly filter the good, the bad and the ugly and deliver them to people who want them—well, that is an attractive management methodology. Beats the heck out of squeezing yet one more penny out of your Chinese supply-chain, doesn’t it?"

See, this is the part where I feel like I'm being suckered into something I don't really care for.

"Let me emphasize this. I think managers have to BECOME designers, not just hire them. I think CEOs have to embrace design thinking, not just hire someone who gets it. I think many business schools have to merge with design schools, not just play poke and tickle with them."

Maybe what really needs to happen is business schools need to rethink what future business goals should be instead of trying to combine with with design schools. Not that there isn't something to learn from those partnerships, but come on businesspeople! DIY!