How does a Design Consultancy set up a Design Centre?

How does a Design Consultancy set up a ‘design centre’ for an existing manufacturing company?

In yesterdays paper a story on a local manufacturer stated this:

_RESEARCH and a closer relationship with customers is what will drive the future of Hills Holdings, says managing director Ted Pretty.

Hills has committed to increase research spending to at least $15 million a year, and will relocate its R&D team to a new innovation centre.

It also wants to create a design centre with US consultancy Ideo._

I can understand how Ideo would work on a product or service, but what would setting up a ‘design centre’ involve? Hills already has an R&D centre. This setup seems more suited to a partnership. Do consultancies act as in-house designers?
I can’t find anything else out about it, not on Ideo’s or Hills websites.
Anyone have any ideas?

The job that IDEO would be getting paid for might be to establish a center for creativity and a different way of looking at things. I am feeling the “hippy” again. A place for “design thinking” :smiley: A big soft color room with plants and chalkboard paint walls

IDEO seems to specialize in the touchy feely aspect of design. This seems like it might be a good fit after reading the article you linked to. Maybe the R&D center that Hills has is cold and humorless and uninspiring. Maybe it needs a little Californication.

But all just a guess, would be a fun job to set up.

They have done this for a few other big clients as well. I’ve seen a few of them while visiting various clients to do actual projects :wink:

They were beautiful spaces that seemed maybe a little underutilized, but may have been just empty when I was there.

I think it is a good idea in general. While at frog I had been asked by clients to do similar things, but I always responded by saying design is not a space, or a process, it is people. If you don’t have the right people to utilize it, there won’t be the value you are looking for. I think it is a fundamental core personality difference. My POV is spend that money on hiring talented designers, engineers, researchers and buy the furniture from IKEA if you have to… that is what we did when we built out our design center at Sound United. OK, a few things are from Knoll, but mostly IKEA. The 22ft rholl up door to the outside in the studio helps as well :wink: fantastic to hear birds chirping away while we work.

I think were able to achieve similar things on a modest budget. It was an industrial space so we had a nice open shell to work with. We modelled it on the flexibility of te old Eames studio. Nothin is ver ly permanent, everythin can be moved to host different types of activities. We host multi day workshops with engineering, product line management, ops, finance, marketing and so on to define brand strategy, develop product definitions and roadmaps and so on. It also functions as our design studio, houses a decent (growing) design library, and is home for our BOOM brand. The key is we started by hiring the right people first. It all starts with people in my opinion. The rest will work itself out.

Someone told me once that the right way to build a bus line is to first start by finding people to take the bus. If there are no people to ride, there is no purpose to have a bus. I kind of butchered that, but you get the idea.

My second point being, you don’t need a multi million dollar budget or have to work for a mega corporation, to get a great space. You do need to prove the value of said space, and make sure that the results prove it out. One thing we did was start small. Initially we had a 2000 sq fit room within another space. We built it out under budget and invited other disciplines to work there, have meetings, have us lead workshops and sessions for them. It quickly became the place to be resulting in a more elaborate 3000sq ft space within a 14,000 sq ft remodel that the design team got to fully design out. Start small, but think big.

I think if a designer can make a case for real value to the organization, and then follow through on that promise, it can be pulled off.

I didn’t even think of it as setting up a physical space. I got confused looking at it from the point of view that if Hills already has an R&D team, how would Ideo come in to ‘rejigg’ it? From one line in a press-release style news item, it looked like “lets get in some consultants!!”

Yo- thanks for the photos, it’s always nice to see where people work (that was an old thread I remember). What you describe having done for DEI, do you think it could be done by someone external to the company? That’s how I read the Hills/ Ideo piece. That said, any local design investment is welcome.

I think an outside group can on;y go so far. Organizational and cultural change has to happen from the inside out or the organizational antibodies will reject it, maybe swiftly, maybe slowly. I get worried when I see organizations making large investments in design that are not truly set up for success internally. My fear being when it collapses, it will be that much harder to get real change through because it will be met with “we tried that design thing, doesn’t work”.

So, for that big reason, I hope this works out as smoothly as possible for both parties. We need every success story possible out there. Looks like Hills has a large portfolio. An interdisciplinary R&D team could be really interesting there.

Also, I think having the center as physically close to key decision makers as possible is key. In the ye’olde Steve Jobs book it describes Steve walking down to Johnny Ives studio a few times a week. We try to foster the same thing. I want to keep the CEO, president, and my peers in the organization immersed in right brain solution finding and fully aware of what the long term vision is so short term decisions can be tailored and tweaked with the end in mind. So I hope the proposed facility stays in the area.

Re-reading the quote, it could also be a satellite center that they are talking about closer to IDEO in California. For all of the reasons that Michael mentioned to try and retain the central focus of the project by people that only do design. Very double edge sword. Of course that is a much bigger budget and a much longer term deal.

The further the centers are apart geographically, vision and decision making, design, and manufacturing, the greater the losses of opportunity.

I know one major multinational corporation that set up a “design center”, it was in an expensive space in the touristy part of downtown, miles from the company’s headquarters in the boring suburbs. Its cost was completely unjustified and the designers were a bunch of arrogant jerks (I probably would’ve fit right in :wink: ) Upper management finally shut the place down after a couple of years, way before the end of the lease, and the VP responsible (someone with an i.d. background) was dismissed.

Whoah. What a great thread! Very down to earth thinking and inspiring pics of a real ID space,
that show how sweat creates “magic”.

It is all in the people, yeah !

“Power to the people!”


P.S.: That Hills - IDEO arrangement sounds a little too blurry, but might be the PR speak.

We are starting the process of redesigning the arrangement of our design teams, and I’ve been very interested in pursuing something along these lines. Currently our ID, Prototyping and Packaging teams all share a studio, the Graphics team has a dedicated space across the building, and the Design Engineering folks are located in the corner of the building.

All of these groups make up a shared service product development team, servicing our three internal brands. Because these three brands are quite different, the model of creating an internal PD consultancy is appealing. I’m very intrigued by the environment (both organizationally and physically) that YO created at Sound United:

“We modelled it on the flexibility of te old Eames studio. Nothin is ver ly permanent, everythin can be moved to host different types of activities. We host multi day workshops with engineering, product line management, ops, finance, marketing and so on to define brand strategy, develop product definitions and roadmaps and so on. It also functions as our design studio, houses a decent (growing) design library…”

Of course, the physical arrangement of people isn’t the only thing required to create the scenario YO described, and we’re constantly pushing to create and develop that relationship with the brand teams. It’s a perpetual work in progress.

As for the physical arrangement of the teams, we have tossed around a bunch of concepts, including

  1. Arranging teams to reflect PD work flow (Starting with ID, ending with Packaging)
  2. Arranging based on brand alignment/specialty (Graphics folks are highly brand related, ID/Proto/Pkg float across brands, DE are tied to factory specialties)
  3. Arrange based on product market channels
  4. Flexible project pods – difficult due to relative project timelines (Graphics is short, ID long, DE longest)

YO, I’m curious who is on the ‘permanent resident’ list inside your GDC? Is it strictly ID, or is there a mix of disciplines? Part of my struggle is that the teams listed above is close to 30 people, which feels way too high a number for a nimble, flexible approach.

Maybe I should be considering a pair of studios, one ID focused and flexible, the other Graphics/Packaging focused and more production oriented. Essentially placing the more conceptually focused folks in the more flexible space, and the teams that are towards the ‘resolved product’ end of the dev cycle in an environment that reflects the production nature of their work, while still leveraging them in the flexible space as needed.

Thoughts? Input? Corrective direction appreciated…

4 industrial designers
3 graphic designers
1 photographer
1 me :slight_smile:
2 directors of marketing
2 social media coordinators
1 ping pong table

In the space adjacent which has a similar layout we have
2 brand directors
2 brand managers
about 4 other marketing managers of one type or another
2 sales directors

Down the hall a bit is the CSO, CMO, and Sr HR director

Some better pics of our space.

We have changed it around a bit since these were taken, I’ll take some more shots.

sweet space @yo.
Industrial space for industrial designers chyeaaaa

Quick pano of our current and crowded space…

Thanks, yes, we keep it pretty industrial. Some more shots of the other side of the book cases.

We did a few of things to maximize communication and transparency:

  1. no walls, no cubes, just desks
  2. lots of informal meeting areas, like the long white table you see, also 4 or 5 cafe tables spread around
  3. lots of pinning up of concepts
  4. bring the outside inside, big open industrial doors

There are very few places to have a private conversation or hide your work, which I think equates to less bad mouthing and complaining. If you are working on something, let other people see it, if you have a complaint, let other people hear it.

We did create a few phone booths with glass doors, land lines, laptop desks and a comfy chair if you need to hop on a conf call.
photo 1.jpg
photo 2.jpg

Also, that thing behind the ping pong table is a Forza sled kitted out with a Polk sound system.

Very sweet!

We have an open, standing, walk-by game of Scrabble. No helmet required.

@Yo: Good call on the Eiffel chairs. We got a few for the cottage recently and they’ve been great thus far.

walk by scrabble? Maybe I’m getting old but that sounds like a great idea :slight_smile: