I just wrote an interesting post about the Future of Design Leadership for Fast Company, based on interviews with the heads of design at 3M, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Pepsico, Philips and REI. Interesting!
At last, the folks at McKinsey & Company are learning about and promoting the benefits of building a Design-Driven Culture. After acquiring Lunar Design it seems they are now among the converted, well, better late than never. And McKinsey just published a very basic article endorsing four elements of design-driven cultures, including:
1. Really understanding the customer
2. Bringing empathy to the organization
3. Designing in real time
4. Acting quickly
You can read more about McKinsey’s recommendations on Building a Design Driven Culture here.
But here’s the part that really makes me smile. How many times have we all talked about, and fretted about, and argued for “design” to have a seat at the table? Countless. For years. For decades. And now McKinsey & Company agrees. They say:
“Transforming your company into one that uses design as a driver of change takes time. Here are some questions we’ve found helpful in successfully making that journey:
Do you have a senior design leader with real authority? Hire a chief design officer or vice president of design strategy. Empower this person with a seat in the C-suite and the backing of the CEO. Ensure that design factors such as customer implications are part of any business strategy.”
Even McKinsey, an American multinational management consulting firm that conducts qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to evaluate management decisions, is on board. How cool. Design, indeed, always has and always will deserve a seat at the table.Change management, design culture, Design leadership, Design-led innovation, Innovation culture
Recently wrote a post for FastCo Design, Why are Design Firms Stagnating. It seems to have struck a cord, with 2,700 likes so far. It’s a pity really; we all have worked so hard – including design firms – to help see design become a more strategic tool, and now the design firms are challenged. I thought a rising tide raises all the ships.Design leadership, Design organization, Design strategy, Design value, Design-led innovation
I have a great deal of respect for Raymond Turner. He has held posts as the Design Director for Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the Heathrow Express high speed rail, the Principal Design Manager consultant to Eurotunnel, Managing Director of Wolff Olins in London and Design Director of London Transport. He’d been a pioneer in defining the differences between design leadership and design management.
So when Raymond asked me to write the forward for his new book, “Design Leadership: Securing the strategic value of design”, I was honored to say the least. It’s a great book, full of relevant insights learned by doing. One of the many things that stands out to me are his seven design drivers for business. The include:
– Design provides a clear, practical link between the strategic discussions in the board room and the daily activities of business.
– Design leadership helps define the future, design management provides the tools for getting there.
– Putting design into the DNA of business maximizes shareholder value from the investment.
– Corporate reputation is built on customer experience, design helps create it.
– Design is a business tool that makes strategy visible.
– Design leadership is a commercial imperative.
– Design investment increases brand value and reduces development costs.
– Design spend is the largest sum of money the board knows the least about.
Great works of wisdom I think.Design leadership, Design management, Design organization, Design research, Design strategy, Design-led innovation, UX leadership
Of course design leaders lead design. But there can be sooooooo much more. A good leader provides inspiration, influence, direction, guidance, control and management, a good design leader even more. Given the right context and cultural environment, design leaders can do amazing things for any company; here is a snapshot of what the best design leaders lead:
Simply put, design is a team sport, and the best design leaders know how to assemble great design teams, guide and inspire people, and create the magic of synergy in cross-functional teams. Great design leaders are great people leaders. They ask more then they tell, laugh more than they disapprove, and yet are straightforward in critique and focus on the content. One of the core values at Pixar is to “always critique the work”. That means don’t slam the creator, instead critique the work, so the creators can do even better work.
Design leaders are adaptable process leaders, any kind they face; Agile, Sprint, Waterfall, Stage gate, Scrum, ISO, departmental and company based. Design is about making new products, services and experiences, and this requires process discipline and methods know how, coupled with creativity. Good design leaders can make good things happen regardless of process constraints.
Design leaders are connectors – connecting technology and new products and services. Connecting products and services to user experience. Connecting different functions in the company, and connecting the company to it’s customers and followers; in fact, connecting the company to all it’s stakeholders, internal and external. After all, every single company touch point is designed, and design leaders help connect the dots.
Many people wrestle with this, but I think it takes one to know one. Design leadership requires grounding, context and empathy. A background in design, any design discipline, can give this grounding, context and empathy. Actually having done the designing process, experiencing the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory in your own design, this matters. Yes, many professionals can lead a design department, but I think that behind every great design leader is a designer at heart, and at school.
Design leaders are future creators, because design is about making what will be, not what is already. Design leaders lead the creation of new products and services; they help take the company, and customers, to new places, to new experiences. Design leaders lead us all to the future, in little steps, most commonly referred to as design-led innovation.
Beyond creating new products and services, design leaders lead user experiences. Users being the end consumer, the channels and the employees. Based on the principle of user-centered design, good design leaders can create better experiences both inside and outside the company. The best design leaders I know all have empathy for the people, and demonstrate this by walking the line, not talking the talk.
7. Brand meaning
Design leaders also help bring meaning to the brand, because a brand is not just what you say, it is what you do. Design leaders are about the do. How do the products work? How do the services perform? How does the user respond? How does the innovation solve the problem, and is this the right problem to solve? How does the brand become relevant to individuals? Design is making relevance, and design leaders make brands more meaningful to it’s stakeholders.
Design leadership is as much about simplifying things as it is making new things. The best design leaders seek to simplify, to streamline. We already have enough stuff, but we probably could use more thoughtful stuff, more sustainable, more simple.
I heard a great little story, not sure if it is true, but it goes like this: Steve Jobs was talking with the CEO of Nike, presumably Mark Parker. They were discussing collaboration while looking at some shoes on display and (Parker) was apologetic, saying something like “Oh, this pair of shoes is over designed”. Jobs responded by saying “It’s not over designed, it’s under designed. Your designer has not found the essence of the shoe yet”. Great design leaders help find the essence of the problems to be solved. Nice little book: “The Laws of Simplicity”, John Maeda
If the definition of design is solving problems, than the definition of strategic design is solving the right problems. That’s what great design leaders can do for your company. So here are ten characteristics of design leaders.
In my humble opinion, great design leaders can do more for an organization that just about any other functional discipline.Career planning, Creative assessment, Design leadership, Design organization, Design recruiting, Design-led innovation
I’ve had the priveledge of working with the Hong Kong Design Center on many occasions, and every time I walk away with inspiration. The HKDC always seems to be so precisely focused what matters. After running several joint conferences with the HKDC, I’m not surprised with how insightful their definition of design is. There are numerous definitions of design floating around, ranging from simply “a plan” to “a solution”. However, the Hong Kong Design Center articulates it from a perspective based on its function to the greater society, stating …
“Design is …
The link between creativity and innovation
Design is a planning and development process, transforming abstract ideas into desirable objects and services. It harnesses consumer insights, technological feasibility and business viability. Design is much broader than aesthetics. It is linked to functions, ease of manufacturing and delivery, sustainability, reliability, quality and productivity.
An integral part of all businesses
The value of design stretches across all industries and sectors – from manufacturing to services, such as banking, tourism, transport and logistics. Firms can create a more engaging brand experience and rewarding customer relationships through better design, not just in products, but also in services, environments, and communications.
Design should function at multiple levels. It requires more than simple collaboration amongst the different design disciplines. Participation from areas such as consumer research, engineering, technology, strategic planning, business management, marketing, psychology, anthropology and sociology are crucial to attaining better design. And better design equals better results.
A value creation tool
Design brings value to businesses by reducing costs, improving profitability and increasing brand equity.
Design has increasingly become a critical part of the overall corporate business strategy. Designers are natural innovators by virtue of their empathy, visual literacy and lateral thinking skills. More and more companies are tapping into the expertise of designers to create innovative business models, products, services to meet the latent and unfulfilled needs of customers.
Design also has a social value. Better design means better living. It brings tangible and sustainable improvements to our living environment, making it easier, safer and more enjoyable.”
A lovely interpretation indeed. What is your definition of design?Design leadership, Design value, Design-led innovation, Innovation culture
A shorter version of this post ran in Fast Company Design.
What do 4,928 products from 56 countries have in common? They are all thought to be examples of good design by the companies that make them, and were shipped to Essen, Germany to compete in the Red Dot Product Design award competition “Red Dot Award: Product Design”. They were organized into categories and evaluated by 38 judges who were brought in to review each product entry and decide which ones are the best design; I had the honor of being one of those judges.
When you put nearly 5,000 products and 38 design experts into warehouses together for a week, and ask for opinions about the best designs, it’s not hard to imagine the high levels of excitement, discussion and diverse professional insights. The jury was asked to rate each product according to design quality, functionality, degree of innovation, formal quality, ecological compatibility and other criteria. To make the process manageable the products were divided into 31 product groups and the judges were divided into three person teams, based on their areas of expertise.
This year marked the 60th anniversary offer the Red Dot Award, which has become an international seal of design quality. In the end, just 81 entries were bestowed the honor of the top award, the “Red Dot: Best of the Best”, and 1,240 products received Red Dot awards. About 3,500 of the entries went away completely empty handed.
One can argue that examining nearly 5,000 products from 56 countries in one place at one time will give a pretty good snapshot view of global product design. But beyond individual products, I also looked for bigger patterns, looked for sense making of it all. I framed insights, linked concepts and consulted with a number of other judges from different regions to synthesize trends; from this I’ve identified five trends in global product design.
1. Higher levels of design quality globally
Without a doubt, there is more parity of design quality globally; just a few years ago I could spot poor quality submissions easily, not so anymore. Today, the global competition in product design is stiff and diverse. The top ten companies earning the most include first place to Royal Philips (Netherlands), followed by LG Electronics (South Korea), NEFF/Bosch (Germany), Hewlett Packard (USA), Sony (Japan), Hansgrohe (Germany), Harman International (USA), Gibson (Hong Kong), Asustek Computer (Taiwan), Fujifilm (Japan) and Acer (Taiwan) tied, and Dell (USA). That’s not to suggest that some well known design leaders weren’t winning Red Dots too, like Porsche Design, Ferrari, Apple, BMW, 3M, Yamaha, Bose, Fiskars and the like, they did, just not as many. It appears the companies traditionally with good design still have it, but the companies that were not a few years ago have caught up and now have good design too. This year, good design was not dominated by single competitors per category, or by single countries per category either, it is much more distributed across the field.
According to judge Nils Toft, Managing director at Designidea in Copenhagen, one reason may be that good design is required to compete in business, “Before the credit crunch western companies sheltered in domestic markets and limped on with outdated products. Eradicated by the financial crises, a new world order has emerged and set a new standard for the global markets in demand for design quality, no matter where the products are from.” For example, the LG cordless “CordZero C5” vacuum cleaner; a canister cleaner that has applied auto-moving technology and wireless cleaning technology for the first time.
According to judge Martin Darbyshire, Managing Director of Tangerine in London, this also suggests emerging brands are becoming more competitive by design, stating “One fascinating aspect of evaluating the products (cars) from 1st tier brands with those from the 2nd tier, is that build quality and driver experience are becoming increasingly similar and standard. Design execution and innovation have now become the main points of differentiation. Rather than imitating the 1st tier leaders, many 2nd tier brands now have the confidence, drive and clarity of thinking to carve out their own identity and shape their destiny.” Gaining a competitive edge by good design is becoming more and more difficult.
2. More even distribution of good design globally
No single country or region is dominating anymore, whereas just a few years ago certain countries pan Europe seemed to dominate. This year the ten countries with the most Red Dot awards were first place Germany (again), but followed the US, China, South Korea and Taiwan tied, Japan, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. The top five countries with the most “Red Dot: Best of the Best” awards were Germany, Japan, the US, South Korea, and a fourth place tie with Netherlands and Denmark,. while the traditional dominance from the EU is diminishing in total the most awarded region was still the EU, followed by Asia and then the US and Canada. However, if you take out the awards to German companies, Asia would have surpassed the rest of the EU in awards.
Judge Carlos Hinrichsen, Dean of the school of Engineering and Business, University Gabriela Mistral in Chile, mentioned “The Red Dot Design Award acts as a mirror reflection of day-to-day life in society, culture and economy. It reflects each individual’s day-to-day life and lifestyle. In the product categories, design quality is playing a key role in turning technological innovations into business success. There were notable improvements and innovations in a wide range and variety of scopes of use, as well as in the quality of products and their performance.”
According to judge Njils Toft “2015 tells a story about change; Design is considered equally important across different regions and equally important for B2C as well as B2B. 2015 also suggested that while established design countries have moved up higher on the design ladder, from single product to design as total experience and a strategic tool, the emerging countries although more focused on the product as the star, are all represented somewhere on the design ladder.” And according to judge Vivian Cheng of Hong Kong, “I would say this year demonstrated a higher level of design quality as well as production quality globally. For instance, in the making of the baby stroller, like the Joolz GoeGeo no matter where it was designed or manufactured, they care so much about the usability as well as durability – high quality of engineering and manufacturing, together with well considered materials, ergonomic, and emotional design.”
3. Increased design language at brand level
More companies are also defining and refining their proprietary design language across multiple products and product categories. There were less one offs, and more of a system and platform approach to design. For example, the all-new Volvo XC90 is a seven seat SUV based on a new Scalable Product Architecture. Or the Leica T , which picks up the timeless attributes of Leica product design styling, with clean lines, smooth surfaces and formal minimalism. One of the camera’s features is its compact and solid body, manufactured with innovative precision techniques from a single block of aluminum – is Leica borrowing a page from the MacBook Pro?
Design judge Gordon Bruce of Gordon Bruce Design in Connecticut noted that “It is only natural that as companies are finding ways of extending their product lines due to technological capabilities – they are becoming smarter at finding ways to express the interconnectedness of their products through their “designed performance”; both physical and digital.” A good example of this is from the company Blackm Magic Design in Australia. Over the last 3 years they have won multiple Red Dot: Best of the Best Red Dot Design Aawards, which is not an easy thing to do. Bruce said “Blackm Magic continues to surprise as it evolves a wonderful design character that seamlessly extends to a broad range of high end photographic and video equipment, creating compatibility between a large piece of equipment such as the Cintel Film Scanner, approximately $30,000 US, their Studio Camera, or even the smaller and convenient Pocket Cinema Camera that sells for $1,000 US. Blackm Magic creates a new water mark for the extension of product design excellent across multiple product lines.”
Note the Husqvarna Group Helmet (picture), with integrated face and ear protection; even though one of the lightest helmets on the market the unique Husqvarna brand design language communicates safety and sturdiness. The Mercedes-AMGF GT (picture) echoes the two-seater of the past, with a dome-shaped arched roof line yet coupled with frameless doors some new elements borrowed from their sedans. And even the Ferrari FXX K hybrid, with total power output of 1050 cv (860 cv V12 engine and 190 cv by its electric motor). All body panels have been modified to various extents, a lower suspension set up, wider front and rear track and increased camber, but still an overall style that’s pure Ferrari.
Judge Martin Darbyshire, Managing Director of Tangerine in London, notes that “Cars and motorcycles are challenging to judge for a number of reasons. Manufacturers usually have tremendous design resources, and therefore, in theory, everything should be well designed. However, numerous parties are often involved in the process, which can erode a designs purpose and coherence. Also often very little major change occurs between one model type and its next generation, as manufacturers look for lower cost ways to breath new life into old models. The challenge for the judges is therefore to define how well a company has improved the design, relative to the previous model, and identify if an important breakthrough has taken place”.
Similarly, judge Jure Miklavc of Studio Miklavc in Sloveania notes that “Increased design language at brand level is especially clearly visible in some solutions for “mature” product categories or markets. Because of the search for good responsibility, product design and brand identity are synonymously joined in one with high level of sophistication. This was clearly reflected in this years winner Audi Matrix light with the Red Dot: Best of the Best in the category Vehicle accessories. Last year their products were known by usage of new technology and their designers mastered design on brand level. This year they managed to join the next generation of technology with new recognizable and evolutionary brand design language.”
4. Trend towards simplicity in design
It was apparent across all categories that products entered tended to demonstrate simple aesthetics and more formal design, simply better design overall than years past. Thankfully, less bells and whistles. For example, a Red Dot for Bamboo Eyewear made of 2.3mm super thin bamboo material, or a VELLO bike, a high performance folding bicycle that rides as strong and sporty as large non-folding models. Or the 8 Built-in Range Black EOX8 / Black Range by Bosch; Design judge Vivian Cheng noted “Although some lifestyle products are still very much working on styles, considerations on useful functions were abundant; like the baby stroller by Milk Design, they care so much about the usability as well as durability together with well considered materials, ergonomic, and emotional design.”
Judge Gordon Bruce said “It is easy to be complex, but it is extremely complex to be simple. As companies are enabled with better talent, design methodologies and tools, they are able to take on difficult design challenges more easily. Not design for the sake of form, but form because of design performance. This year many products tend towards this principle. Two products that come immediately to mind, Dell’s new UltraSsharp 34 Curved Monitor as well as Blackm Magic’s Studio Camera; both demonstrate a trend towards simple, albeit rich and thoughtful designed experience.” Even the Apple Watch, although featuring a slew of features and technologies, as a design attempts to honor the rich tradition of fine watchmaking.
5. Trend towards functionality and efficiency
Last, there is a trend towards more integrated functions, more intuitive usability, more ecological compatibility; basically smarter design. This is apparent in every category. For example, the Schwalbe Procore bicycle tire, an dual chamber integrated inner tube and tire which is puncture resistant. And the REV’IT! SEEFLEX motorcycle limb protection, a simple design and simple use of materials to achieve synergy without compromising comfort and safety. The trends of functionality and efficiency can be visible on wide variety product groups. Judge Jury Miklavc was in the sports and bicycle categories with me, and noted that “I can detect that in the category of Sports goods and Bicycles growth with the number of applicants which clearly indicates reflection of changing awareness in our societies towards healthier and more sustainable life. As you study products by themselves in those categories, there is an emphasis on designing the lightest solutions as possible on any levels, with the result of improved performance, and there is also substantially reduced carbon footprint of the products.”
Another example of increased functionality is the NOW Smart Radiators System by IRSAP, which can modulate the temperature of every radiator of the house with an algorithm allows energy saving of over 40%. According to judge Toft, “The rising focus on usability falls in line with another trend; the increasing mixture of technologies, merging digital technologies with mechanical technologies to create intelligent machinery.” And judge Bruce noted “As technologies become more powerful and smaller, and materials become more sophisticated and compatible with the nature, there is a greater capability for designers to evolve ideas that conform more naturally to the human eliminating the need for people to contort to the shortcomings of the design.” For example, Lenovo’s new ThinkPad Stack with stackable accessories is a design performance based on inherit simplicity, portability, efficiency, usability, convenience, etc., all within a very small package. And judge Martin Darbyshire noted “Serious energy is expended to achieve a harmonious balance between aesthetics, features, function and the engineering of a design.”
Professor Dr Peter Zec, Founder and CEO of the Red Dot Award stated ““What strikes me is that the functionality of future-oriented products was increased in an often surprising way: Those devices we’d have called “futuristic” some time ago are on the market by now, with functions beyond 20th century imagination, but the looks are mainly simplified and pure. These devices, for instance health surveillance mechanisms in smart watches or smart glasses projecting information into the visual field of the user show many designs contain additional functions, although they often appear very basic at first sight.”
The Red Dot Design Museum Essen, Germany will exhibit the award-winning products for at least one year, and the Red Dot Design Yearbook presents the year’s best designs. All of the products and their makers are also featured in the online presentation and in the Red Dot global design directory as well as in the Red Dot App. Finally, the award ceremony for the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2015 will take place on Monday, 29 June 2015 in Essen’s Aalto-Theater. Afterwards, the guests and the prize-winners will celebrate together in the Red Dot Design Museum.
It is a changing environment for design today. The past was about competition between good design against not so good design, today it is good design against even better design.
Design leadership, Design strategy, Global scene, Product design
Here are seven tips to evaluate UX designers
Critiquing user experience design portfolios accurately can be a challenge. It’s tough to know what is appropriate design for a given project, tough to isolate a persons exact role and contribution, and even more difficult if you are evaluating the work of design leaders.
To help evaluate a UI designers, UX designers and visual designers effectively I find that an objective criteria is very helpful. Here are seven tips we use to help take away the guesswork.
1. First, clarify their real role
A person called a “UX designer” may actually be many different things. I had the opportunity to collaborate on research with professor Yujin Kim and professor Kyung-Won Chung at KAIST in South Korea, and we identified four distinct roles or types of UX designers. I found this very interesting. The different roles include:
– Form Giver – focused on visualizing the ‘look and feel’ of an app or site and evoking user emotion as a more traditional type of designer.
– Solution Provider – focused on materializing new service solutions using the latest visual script languages by connecting other designers’ dynamic design concepts with the developers’ programming.
– Concept Generator – focused on building competitive brand images by creating unique brand experiences using interactive digital story-telling techniques.
– Service Provider – focused on suggesting innovative services or user experiences, and then initiating new service development process or coordinating the whole process.
What type of UX designer are you evaluating?
2. Dig into process flexibility
It’s not just good design that matters, it’s how well it can be developed and executed, and that takes process flexibility and adaptability. So ask about experience working in Agile, Scrum, Sprint, Waterfall, etc. Learning about design process can help you understand the person better – how flexible they are, and also a team player or more of a soloist. Processes like Agile and Scrum and design Sprints are a flexible, holistic, and collaborative where product development team works as a unit to reach a common goal, opposed to a Waterfall or traditional sequential approach. This takes a certain ability of engagement, where teams to self-organize and collaborate, and can tell you much about a persons work style.
3. Evaluate specific UX design skills
There are many aspects of UX design, and you can evaluate the person on their competency with a little “skill bar” slider from beginner to expert. How would you, and the candidate, rate their skills on:
– Information architecture
– Interaction Design
– Visual Design
– Motion Design
– Project management
– UI Development
– User Research
It’s not that anyone should do it all, but you’re seeking to understand competency maturity in each area.
4. What are their technical, personal and team skills?
We like to break skills down into three buckets: technical, personal and team. In technical areas look for evidence of skills in HTML, CSS, Java, Apex, Visualforce, etc., as well as usability research, eye tracking, expert review, etc. And do they have patents?
In addition to technical skills, probe into user-centered work in design research and design thinking, and try to explore skills in not only design but visual and verbal communication, strategy and storytelling. Equally important are the soft skills such as collaboration, thought leadership, knowledge sharing, optimism and resourcefulness. Design is a team sport, and it takes a breadth of personal competencies to play effectively.
5. Ask, “What was your exact contribution on the project?”
Sometimes people over state their involvement in a project – so be sure to probe with direct questions. “What exactly did you do on this part of the project?”
6. Inquire about the customer journey
User experience design is relevant across the entire customer journey. Ask what is the candidates role in evaluating the experience journey and what methods and tools are they applying? Look for details around customer experience maps, front stage/back stage analysis, personas and paired personas, service blueprints, and integration with brand and other media.
For that matter, just ask “Who is the customer?” This helps you to see the candidates true colors; if they can articulate the target persona in detail, they are designing for someone, but if they can’t, they may be designing for themselves. The last thing you should want is a solution looking for a problem.
7. Finally, ask “What’s the problem?”
Finally, how can you evaluate a design if you don’t know what the problem is to solve? Just straight up ask, “Why did you design this way?” What you’re trying to discover is if the person can not only create but also present and defend their work well. While you’re there, ask about the design brief, in fact, ask to see the brief. Then, you can decide if the work meets the stated objectives. And if there is no brief, it may indicate lack of discipline.
Using defined criteria and disciplined approach in evaluating UX design talent, for vetting candidates, or for evaluating staff in performance assessments can be very helpful. The goal being, complement subjectivity with objectivity. Similarly, here are seven tips for evaluating product design portfolios.Career planning, Creative assessment, Creative interviews, Design leadership, Design management, Design recruiting, Interview, Sourcing, UX recruiting
Here are seven tips to evaluate product design portfolios
Lets be honest, critiquing design portfolios can be difficult. And for the untrained reviewer, even daunting. It’s easy to get swept away by beautiful renderings and snappy concept sketches. And its even more difficult if you are looking for design leaders.
To evaluate a design candidates work effectively, you need to review portfolios accurately and objectively. Don’t just note if you like it or not, rather, be more strategic in your approach. Here are seven tips to help take away the guesswork.
1. Look deeper
Saul Bass said that design is thinking made visible. So when you look at a design portfolio, look deeper, and try to understand the candidates thinking behind the work. Ask, “What is the problem you are trying to overcome?” Ask, “Was this design successful, and how do you know?” See if the the candidate present their work effectively, other than saying “I like it”. This may give you clues about the person’s business and strategic thinking.
2. What’s the problem?
How can you evaluate a design if you don’t know what the problem is to solve? Just straight up ask, “Why did you design this way?” What you’re trying to discover is if the person can not only create but also present and defend their work well. While you’re there, ask about the design brief, in fact, ask to see the brief. Then, you can decide if the work meets the stated objectives. And if there is no brief, it may indicate lack of discipline.
3. What’s the process?
Learning about design process can help you understand the person better – a team player or a soloist. And ask, “What were the biggest challenges to overcome, and how did you address them?” Listen to see if the challenges the candidate mentions are technical or people related – if the answer is on the technical side, it’s a clue the person may be more functionally based, and if it’s on the people side, the person is probably more in tune with collaboration. Remember, design is a team sport.
4. Ask, “What was your exact contribution on the project?”
Sometimes, well, actually often, people over state their involvement on a project – so be sure to probe with direct questions. “What exactly did you do on the project?” What was your role and contribution? While your there, probe about design patents awarded, and try to understand what are the candidates most meaningful and relevant accomplishments.
5. Use formal design critique methods
I was recently a design judge for the Red Dot Product Design Awards in Germany, one of 39 experts flown in to evaluate 5,000 products in person. Big job. And it reminded how helpful it is to apply defined criteria to candidates portfolios, such as:
– Ergonomics and usability
– Formal design principles
– Degree of innovation
– Self-explanatory quality
– Symbolic and emotional content
– Ecological compatibility
– Product periphery
6. Look at the context
Try to find out what the design of other products in the category look like, from this company and from the competitors. Sometimes a nice looking portfolio is simply additions to existing products that someone else designed, or following a competitor. And for broader context, ask “How does this design solution support the brand?”, and “How does this project fit within the broader customer experience?”
7. Designed for whom?
Finally, ask “Who is the customer?” This helps you to see the candidates true colors; if they can articulate the target persona in detail, they are designing for someone, but if they can’t, they may be designing for themselves. The last thing you should want is a solution looking for a problem.
Using defined criteria such as this to evaluate design portfolios, vet candidates, and even when considering employee advancements can help replace subjectivity with objectivity. This criteria is focused on industrial design, so I have another post upcoming focused on evaluating UX portfolios.
Critiquing design talent doesn’t stop with the portfolio and cv. Here are suggestions on using a white board in the interview process.Career planning, Creative assessment, Design leadership, Design recruiting, Innovation recruiting, Interview, Sourcing, UX recruiting
There is much to say about the unique role of design in innovation and improving customer experience, and growing interest in the role of design as a competitive business strategy. And the broad acceptance of design thinking methods in service design and UX design is a center of conversations. But let’s not take our eyes off the value of simply good industrial design and human-centered product design.
Last week I was one of 39 international design experts who convened in Essen, Germany to judge the 2015 Red Dot Product Design Award competition. We were asked to evaluate 4,928 entries from 56 countries, all physically displayed on location and organized into categories with descriptive information. This is a big undertaking to say the least.
The design judging process is an evaluation lasting several days where the international experts test, discuss and assess every single entry without any preselection. We evaluated actual products, so it was necessary for entrants to submit functioning samples. To make it more manageable the judges were paired into teams of three, and assigned to categories of products based on their expertise and interests. My team was asked to evaluate four product categories; Bicycles, Sports, Outdoors and Trekking, and Leisure, Games and Fun. What fun! We were asked to evaluate the products on design quality, based on this criteria:
– Degree of innovation
– Product periphery
– Self-explanatory quality
– Formal quality
– Symbolic and emotional content
– Ecological compatibility
The judging process consisted of four stages, one product category at a time. First, we reviewed the product category individually to preview the entire set of products and get a lay of the land, so to speak, and form our initial perceptions. Next, the three judges went thru the entire category together, discussed each entry, and decided which products would be kept in the competition for the next round, and which product entries would be eliminated. Then we went through a third time to review the remaining product entries and decide which ones would be awarded a Red Dot distinction based on the evaluation criteria. Finally, we went thru a fourth time to select the “Best of the best”, which requires a unanimous vote of all three judges. Only 1% to 1.5% of the products submitted receive the coveted Red Dot Best of the Best designation.
Red Dot design judging is a very thoughtful and professional evaluation process, and one of the best in the world. According to Professor Dr. Ken Nah of Hongik University in Seoul, “Among all the competitions on design, I do not have any hesitation to say that the Red Dot Design Award is the best contest in the world in two perspectives: One is that it is based on the most fair competition of jury, and the way of evaluation. The other is that the winners of the Red Dot Award are the real proof of success in the markets.”
Red Dot represents a global body of good design, no doubt. According to the Initiator and CEO of the Red Dot Award, Professor Dr. Peter Zec, “Economic success is based on good design and its communication. Receiving a distinction at the Red Dot Award confirms the quality and communicates its success in a contemporary way, thus setting it apart from the masses.”
This was my fourth time judging for Red Dot, and as always, it was a very challenging yet rewarding experience. Working with the team of 39 international judges was very interesting, and critiquing the leading designs submitted from 59 countries was a great way to keep current on global trends in product design. More on that in the next post.Creative assessment, Design leadership, Design management, Design strategy, Global scene, Human-centered design, Product design