Potpourri: Design – It’s Impact on You & Your Business: Economic Development
What does design mean to you! Vastly more than you probably realize. Let me use the area where I live as an example.
In 2003 the AngelouEconomics consulting firm, after months of study, recommended that the Forsyth County, NC, region become a national center for design with design a primary engine for economic development.
Local people who heard it may have asked themselves, “What is design and how do you create economic development around it?” They weren’t and aren’t alone. At a recent chamber of commerce meeting a speaker said, “I’m sure a lot of us out there are confused about this (design), what it means, and what it means for this community.” I once asked chamber president Gayle Anderson if she thought most people grasped Angelou’s concept of design and she said she no.
If the community is supposed to build an economic foundation on design, we certainly should understand it, and I haven’t heard anyone explain it better than Tom Peters, the author of the business bible In Search of Excellence and others. He gave a colorful presentation a few years earlier on its criticality to business. I tried to interview Peters for this column, but a staff person for the busy international speaker kindly referred me to his article Design Mindfulness. With her permission, I amply quote Peters, and then look at the latest on one current effort to tap into design.
Peters says, “I simply believe design per se is the principal reason for emotional attachment (or detachment!) relative to a product or experience or brand proposition. Design, as I see it, is arguably the #1 determinant of whether a product-service-experience-brand-proposition stands out… or doesn’t. Has integrity… or doesn’t. Connects… or doesn’t. Furthermore, it’s ‘one of those things’ that damn few companies put – consistently – on the front burner.”
Peters says that since all businesses pursue good quality, respectable costs, constant improvement and rapid introduction of new products then their challenge is to find a unique edge, and being different isn’t easy. He says you need to lead, “And what better ‘tool’ to lead with than scintillating design!
“Design is… what and why I love. Design is… what and why I hate. Design is… never neutral. Design is… the principal difference between love and hate.”
Tom Peters links design to branding this way. “Branding is integrity. Branding is consistency. Branding is fresh. Branding is what I care about and why it matters. Branding is the answer to who we are and why we are here. Branding can’t be faked. Branding is a systemic, 24/7, all departments, all hands affair. And for design and designers this is the one big enchilada. (1) The brand is it. (2) Brand = The emotional connection. (3) Design is the key to emotional connection. (4) Designers are, then, ‘the key’ to the strategic success of the enterprise.”
He says there is design “mindfulness” within companies “When there’s a certain aesthetic sensibility that pervades an enterprise, from business process design to office settings to vendor relations to talent development in the creation of products and services… when no one, from receptionist to CEO, shies away from words and terms like beauty and grace and soul and integrity.”
Once you “get” design as defined by Peters then it’s easier to envision how businesses and institutions can economically exploit it: tangibly (improving a product’s look or feel or brand) and intangibly (human resources, internal systems, organization). Only imagination limits the possibilities.
One design exploitation effort initiated and researched by the NC School of the Arts with a chamber of commerce grant is underway. Its a new Bachelor of Fine Arts program planned for 2006 to serve NCSA plus Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, and Forsyth Technical Community College. At the chamber meeting mentioned earlier, NCSA film school dean Dale Pollock said he is researching design components of digital imaging, digital sound, digital video and multimedia programming. The goal is to train digital design artists. Pollock says graduates could possibly work with network and cable television special effects, houses for film effects, major corporations, and perhaps bio-tech imaging and scanning and furniture and pharmaceutical design.
With this background, design makes more economic sense, doesn’t it? The challenge is how else to take advantage of it.