"design is a commodity"

This from the online edition of Business Week


Michael Marks, the CEO of Flextronics, which bought Frog Design this year for $30MM, is saying that design is a commodity.

Care to disagree?

Well if it is a commodity then why did he buy that Branded a unit of it and at that high of a price. Why not a small unknown firm for a much lower price or just used resources from multiple sources.

An unfortunate use of language, I think what he meant was a manufacturing company has to have Industrial Design internally or it can’t compete?

Maybe Mr. Marks thought he would be getting some premium profits moving into the design space, and found out it wasn’t great after all. I guess Frog was a disappointment to him.

he should’ve have bought a sperm bank in the bay area! then he could have sold them off in little packages to all these genetic research comapnies there.

I think the core of his interview was relevant to “design” in a general product mechanical design sense. At no point in the article did he say the user research, insights from user testing, cohesive branded products, and design from the good old USA (or anyplace but out of Flextronics) are outdated or commoditized.

“Design is no longer a competitive advantage. Design is a commodity. Yet design in big companies is just as inefficient as manufacturing and supply-chain management used to be…A big electronics company may have 10,000 designers, but maybe only 50 are doing real architecture for new products…”

My money is on that despite the engineering and other IP that goes into, in his example a cellphone, the ID is going to stay very close to the marketing, the advertising, the administrative people to maintain control through the development process. The design that he’s talking about - how to shape the exterior shell of the Razr phone, how to manage the tolerances between that keypad and the PCB, etc. - is exportable and a commodity.

I’m getting worried about the word “design” being thrown around like this. Especially by Business Week, who routinely puts it on their cover.

I wonder what Hartmut Esslinger thinks of this?

In the end, I’m still waiting for that great product, OS or software application that was designed in Mexico, China, India et. al. (Paraphrasing John Dvorak.)

Wait, here’s a better way to summerize using his own words from the article:

"Design no longer is a competitive advantage. Design is a commodity. "
“We’re developing a capability to design and make products cheaper than anyone on the planet.”
“Before we started doing original design, we were losing business. We just aren’t making the money on it that we hoped we would.”
"Every product is on a trajectory of becoming silicon surrounded by plastic. "
“What we can’t do is develop new technology.”

…Still worried? This guy is just a one-trick salesman.