Design to innovate and compete

Recently my copy of the June issue of Fast Company (FC83) arrived in my mailbox. The issue focuses on the critical role design plays in business innovation and competitive fitness–the idea of design as a metaphor for the future of work. Here are the takeaways from my read (ref. [1] and [2]):

  • Design is about what people want today and leading them to what they will want tomorrow.
  • Design’s purpose is to not only show us the future but to bring us the future.
  • Behind every design is a thought process that transcends the design itself. Every design process confronts a time problem, a material problem, and a functional problem.
  • Where there is meaning, there is design.
  • Involve design on the front end (i.e. up front).
  • There is an emotional side to design. How does a product or service make me feel? Do I feel clever? Do I feel like I’m an insider? Or do I feel dumb and on the outside? Am I drawn in or am I pushed away by the experience? Do I want more or have I had enough?
  • Truly innovative products speak to their users’ emotions. When you make an emotional connection with your customers, you win their loyalty.
  • What aspects of my products and services can become more fashionable and less pedestrian? Think about what the cell phone has become. Think about products like Apple’s Mini iPod.
  • Use a constant round of fresh, unfamiliar challenges to inspire maximum creativity.
  • Distinctive look and feel will give customers a compelling reason to buy what is essentially a commodity.
  • Sometimes conventional wisdom might not be so smart after all.
  • Design is inherently optimistic. That is its power. -William McDonough
  • Concerning edgecraft (i.e. the methodical, measurable process that allows individuals and teams to identify inexorably the soft innovations that live on the edges), Seth Godin says: Of all the edges I know, embracing amazing design is the easiest, the fastest, and the one with the most assured return on investment. -from The Best Things In Life Are Free, which is an excerpt from his new book Free Prize Inside!
  • Design is about removing the unnecessary.
  • Immersive design involves close study of how something is used in the real world. It requires deep commitment.
  • Before you can execute the design, you’ve got to live the design problem.
  • Think about how you want your products and services to make your customers and partners feel instead of thinking about how you want your customers and partners to feel about your brands.
  • We can’t accept the notion that our dreams are constrained by our budgets. We have to believe, as designers often do, that nothing can’t be done, that constraints merely increase the challenge and excitement. We can’t be governed by narrow roles that limit our participation in creative work. We must be collaborative and iterative. And we can’t derive our status from empire building, or managing a big staff or a big budget. Status is won by meaningful contribution, by personal fulfillment and growth. -John Byrne, FC editor from his FC83 editorial column

It will be interesting to see how Stanford’s School of Engineering launches its new “Design School” due in 2007, headed by IDEO’s David Kelly. While I couldn’t find a direct reference to this program mentioned in FC83, I did locate the site for Stanford’s current Center for Design Research (also here).