In April and June I helped run two DMI conferences, both focused on exploring the values of design in business. I’ve been a bit enamored with this topic, and I’d like to know, could there be a common language about design value, and could this help advance the agenda for design in business?
The DMI conference in Amsterdam May 18-19, and in Seattle June 21-22 explored this area; with about 400 attendees. It is clear that design ads value in many ways, as a process and as a result, and it’s complicated to explain.
Seeking tangible value in Amsterdam
We invited about twenty thought leaders to the Amsterdam conference to present their opinions about design value. A very precise approach was by Peter Zec of Red Dot, with work stemming from his book Design Value. He presented a model to actually quantify a companies design value with a formula combining the EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) and subjective ratings for design continuity (visual consistency), design strength (innovation), design assets (IP), and winning design awards. It’s very interesting, yet complicated, and relies on entering design awards as part of the evaluation.
A team presented a very practical approach from HP and Jump Associates. Over the past two years they worked together to develop a “3D” matrix of design value, with three categories of differentiation, innovation and simplification. The thought being that at HP all product and brand design activities should support goals in at least one of these three categories, and they have some success examples to support it.
We split the audience of 200 onto six-person teams to break out and discuss how to articulate design value, and then present their ideas. Perhaps with the SME size business and service design in mind, two more important categories of design value came up repeatedly from these sessions; design for responsibility (sustainability) and design for integration (collaboration and design thinking).
At the end of the conference we asked the audience to write down their comments about a modified “3D” model that included responsibility and integration – and to our surprise about 60% of the audience said they agreed with this new model, and another 30% said yes but to develop it further. That’s 90% favorable. So in Amsterdam at least, with 15 countries represented, there was a very solid endorsement to move forward with this idea.
A more integrated approach to design value in Seattle
With enthusiasm high, I was off to help run DMI’s design thinking conference in Seattle. The theme was about moving from design thinking to design doing; how to engage an organization with design more holistically. This audience appeared to be more attuned to the user experience and innovation than the Amsterdam audience. Some of the key topics that kept popping up were the importance of integrating design within broader systems, creating holistic customer experience, and the value of integrated & distributed design thinking processes.
Based on these two DMI conferences, I can imagine looking at design value as: design for Responsibility, Experience, Innovation, Integration, Differentiation, and Simplification. Six simple concepts, supporting one complex idea. I’m ready to devote time and energy to help move the notion of articulating design value forward, and hope many more people will join in.