Incorporating Design… from the Masters

All of these lessons are borrowed from the [FAST] TAKE section at the bottom of several pages within the June 2005 issue of Fast Company.

Claudia Kotcha, VP for design innovation and strategy at P&G

1. Get Buy-in from Senior Management

If the CEO isn’t on board, cultural change efforts are doomed to fail.

2. Get Outside Feedback
She has a board of outside advisors who give honest comments about their work.

3. Understand the Design Process

Designers are flexible and intuitive rather than rigid and exacting. So to think like one, you have to adopt the design process.

4. Locate Designers Near the R&D Folks
Design used to be siloed at P&G, viewed by most as peripheral and unimportant. Now most designers work directly with researchers within each unit. This sparks new sorts of innovation and makes it easier for nondesigners to understand what design is.

5. Let Designers Create their own Workspace

In a place like P&G, where workspaces are standardized, this is both symbolically and functionally critical.

Brian Collins,
Executive Creative Director, Brand Integration Group, Ogilvy & Mather

1. Cut-and-Paste Culture
Globally, kids are now mixing and matching things to create new forms – sampling music tracks on their laptops, creating images that meld digital photographs and magazine clips.

2. Accomplished Amateurs
Brands are already turning to their consumers for content. This trend will accelerate in advertising as tech-savvy teens, armed with cameras and cheap moviemaking software increasingly challenge the pros – and the old financial model of commercial production.

3. Storytelling Renaissance

What’s oldest is new again. Good brands are always good stories. And storytelling is always interesting because it’s driven by one question: What happens next? Stories make people turn the page, click on the link, enter the shop, see the show.

Joshua Prince-Ramus,
Partner, Office for Metropolitan Architecture

1. Create a Common Language

The three-month research period gives the firm and its client a contextual framework they can share before beginning the design.

2. Simple is Smart

When Prince-Ramus talks about smart design, he often says he likes a dumb solution that comes only from digging into a problem.

3. Question Everything
Prince-Ramus believes in the power of questioning first principles and discarding preconceived notions.

4. Authorship is Leadership
Many designers, architects or business leaders might define a project’s author as the person whose name is on it. A leader creates something not by taking credit, but by making spaces in which others can excel.

Chuck Jones, Vice President of Global Consumer Design, Whirlpool Corporation

1. Follow the Leaders

Initially, Jones put together a presentation for senior management showing how a design-focused strategy reaped rewards in stock price, market share and profitability at Apple, Chrysler, Volkswagen, and other design-centric companies.

2. Grab a Seat at the Table

For designers to help solve business problems, they need to understand Whirlpool’s overall corporate strategy. Jones’ team stays in the loop, participating with sales and manufacturing…in key meetings.

3. Take Smart Shortcuts

Each of Whirlpool’s 16 major brands has its own language – a series of colors, textures and descriptions that tie every product together. These cues provide building blocks to accelerate new product design.

4. Use the Numbers

Jones’ team takes the fuzziness out of design abstractions through extensive usability studies that quantify effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Making the numbers opens the door for more risk taking.

Bruce Mau, Founder, Bruce Mau Design, Inc.

1. Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time on research, Mau will launch a project even when he has just a 10% understanding of what it actually entails. He might have more questions than answers, but he knows the answers will come when he prototypes the idea and gets feedback from the client.

2. Question Every Decision
Learn-as-you-go projects require you to continually evaluate your assumptions. Because you lack knowledge to guide your decisions, you must be brave enough to ask stupid questions. Says Mau: “I’m completely comfortable admitting that I don’t understand something.”

3. Bring in the Outliers

To build the project that became “Massive Change,” Mau tapped outside talent – 14 students with wildly different backgrounds. Their unfamiliarity with Mau’s design process freed them to challenge his thinking.

I hope Fast Company doesn’t mind me pimping so much of their content. They really do seem to have their finger on the pulse of what’s changing in business and I really identify with a lot of their thoughts. I don’t claim these ideas for my own (though sometimes the synchronicity of where I’m at with my own career and the topic of the next issue that arrives in my mailbox is uncanny) but I do string together the thoughts that resonate with me to help you learn, about me, about what I think is important… and how it’s being echoed throughout the world.

I saw an excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle recently about how the Burning Man people are creating a global creative movement and considering how Burning Man could live on without the playa…. expect a future entry on that one too…

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