Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Good design is good business"

Design thinking caught my attention in the last while with all the academic posts and thought leaders weighing in on the subject. One of the first clear thinkers on this subject many years ago was Tom Watson then President of IBM. Some of this banter is somewhat recycled from years past but ideally this wave of new awareness about design will get embedded more widely common place inside organizational frameworks and become main stream. This happy circumstance would be a welcome evolution in the design field especially in some sectors where unfortunately procurement/reliability has stagnated innovation and design thinking.. You’ll recall the president of IBM’s profound statement about the value of design as it related to business. He engaged Paul Rand to design the famous logo that is well known today across the IBM brand landscape. IBM has changed in many ways but the visual logo designed by Rand has been the central focal point throughout IBM’s cycles of transformation. This is a testament to the timeless value of design and how when properly executed design will withstand different market forces and offer stability to organizations in the form of familiarity, repetition, and other thought patterns that align and drive experiences associated with progressive and vital organizations. When I see Apple product placement in a movie I can’t help thinking about my work station and my rituals and procedures which today take place at my area or hub. The apple is a reminder about all the transactions and correspondence around my business activity. An apple with a clear indent or bite drives more meaning, connotation and subjective conclusions the apple assimilates a set of references that extend well beyond the simple iconic shape. We read new meaning into the subjective contours of the apple icon based on whatever value the apple symbol has emanated since the first computer was installed over two decades ago. Little time is spent quantifying or measuring the meaning of symbols and corporate design language. Much of what is designed is simply in the fabric of our lives ubiquitous among our visual experiences. One positive result around all the design thinking conversation is that organizations will increase their awareness of the value of design and bring the design line item higher up from the lower part of the ledger to a much greater level of importance in terms of corporate investment.

Contemplating ideas around design thinking brings to mind the first challenge which is most of the design thinking discourse is about people preaching to the converted. People have had a difficult time describing design. The language around design somehow is not congruent with conversation dynamic we use metaphors, subjectivity and theory. Generally people see things differently. Form in your eyes is likely quite different in mine. Designers have (thanks Paul Rand) to educate others about upholding design standards and adherence to high production values. Design today remains a specialty even with the democratization afforded the masses including established new media such as you tube, facebook and other social media. A general complacency about design is evident for users who resort to the standard defaults and ease of use these systems offer. Design Thinking will bring to the organization rewards when most of the output through these utilities generally fails to do much in the way of differentiation. Organizations will do well who hire capable designers and put them in executive roles close to the CEO.

Since much of the conversation around this subject is from within the expert fold what steps will have to be undertaken to have "Design Thinking" central in the boardrooms of Corporate Canada?