looks like we’re gonna have a new position in design profession
Consequences for design and designers…
Most designers can do nothing and still benefit from this trend–so long as your skills are great, your firm is distinctive, and you are able to work well in teams. A lot of the background interest in innovation is mostly hunger for distinctiveness and stuff that is on the edge (witness the meteoric rise of the signature architects Gehry, Koolhaas, Calitrava, Hadid, and others). The great news for designers about the rise of a corporate interest in innovation is that it recognizes, more than ever before, the strategic contribution of design to product, service, information, and environmental offerings. At Doblin we see this as a trend likely to persist for at least the next decade.
But it is also possible to do more than nothing… If you want to actively participate in the base ideas of the emerging innovation field then you have to develop a keen interest in what works in marketplaces. Of course great designers always have solid instincts about what is likely to work in marketplaces (and these instincts, for my money, are FAR more important than any known form of evaluative research). But the innovation field per se needs to use MANY forms of design, carefully orchestrated and integrated, to get beyond some threshold level of activity–enough to get noticed, to make a difference, to be strategic. Think about it: how many kinds of excellence would Sears or Wal-Mart need to develop to be as cool as Target? How likely is is that they will develop these skills spontaneously? How will they learn what to do and do it with any quality, subtlety, freshness, or uniqueness? It is easy for designers to simply say: “they won’t.” And odds are, you’d even be right (at least about those two firms).
But here’s the deal, and it is novel, important and unprecedented: nearly every firm needs to be smarter about this now than ever before.
I contend that this is a NEW field, not just a new word. I further contend that it has its own methodology, complexity, and professional demands. It will be VERY GOOD for the design field, but is not the same as the design field. It is my fond hope that the better practitioners, design firms, schools (including a rapidly growing number of business schools), and desigers, will help to create the broad new capabilities and professionalism that will actually meet the underlying need for stuff, places, clarity of messages, and distinctive experiences that human beings crave–and enterprises must increasingly learn to deliver.