Presenting to Business and Engineering Students

If you had the ear of a classroom of soon to graduate Business and Engineering students to educate them on ID and what it brings to the process of creating products…what would you make sure you told them?

I am presenting to the UBC Sauder School of Business at the end of January and would love to get some help ensuring my presentation is relevant.

My key points would be:

Design has an EQUAL roll in making great products that are usable, enjoyable, manufacturable, desirable and financially successful.

Design goals can sometimes be less quantitative, but they can often be as impactful if not more from a qualitative point of view. That those goals need to be on the same level as tool amortization and product distribution.

The process is NOT about Design, Marketing, or Engineering leading the other two, it IS about all 3 functions working together to make the best possible product and move the brand forward (cue image of a tri-pod) All 3 legs need to be strong to support the goal of a successful design.

Design needs to be a contributing part of the process from inception (writing briefs, line plan, product strategy) to delivery (packaging, mold textures…) and everything in between. The process is collaborative, and that means that no one group owns a part of it, we share in the work, the responsibility and the glory… if we don’t blow it.

The process is a conversation, not a dictation. Open up a dialog.

Designers are degreed professionals, work with them and listen to them on design calls big and small like color, finishes, interfaces, form factors, visual language…

As designers, it is our job to do our best to hold up our end of all those points…

You hit on most of what has been on my brain around this one (sorry, just now got a chance to really look at what you wrote).

The equality aspect of the design process is definitely the primary focus of my attention.

Your tripod analogy is bang on. It is the foundation of my company and I will definitely be doing a bit of preaching around that. All disciplines must work together. There is overlap, but a respect for each disciplines boundaries is necessary as well.

Thanks for the input…I will definitely be using some of it in my presentation.

might also be nice to give some thought to the concept of consistency. it goes along with what michael has said about the tripod/balance idea.

all too often, ive seen good things go horribly wrong when the 3 groups involved all try to “make it their baby”. of course everyone should be involved, ideally from the outset, but i think even more important that having 1 of 3 strong, or all 3 strong but unconnected is having all 3 work together to the same goal/concept.

that is, there should be a plan upfront and all 3 should be on board. passing things “over the wall” invariably results in sometimes good stuff from the other groups, but a disconnect.

im a big believer that a consistent design/business/marketing model/concept is much better off than 3 strong individual ideas.

in the end it does go back to the cooperation but is also about communication, group planning and shared goals/ideas.

best of luck in your talk.


I think a good point to bring up would be that, by nature, an individual wants to solve a problem by using their specialty. This is the bias that has engineers designing products that only other engineers can use (ditto for some designers). The key is to initially forget your specialty and truly understand and define the problem at hand.

Once the problem is defined, its just like you all have said: Draw on all the skills of your team.

Also, I know its cliché, but everyone needs to “check their egos at the door”.

Agree with everything presented previously. I sometimes like to think of myself as the “translator” between marketing and engineering.

I’m sure you could find some good examples of products that were improved through the use of ID.

Long time since I was at UBC. Still have one or two friends who hail from the Engineering department.

Cannot say for sure these days, but I think your hardest sell will be the engineers. It is easy enough to make an ROI case with the business grads, but IME, the engineers at UBC have been trained to be an arrogant bunch. They may engage by picking apart any pretty pictures you show, which is the tendency of those few engineers that I know. I don’t have any suggestions except to be prepared to be challenged.

so, how did it go?

It went very well, I thought. I am putting together my presentation on my blog. Unfortunately I have been slammed at work and it is making it tough. Especially b/c I don’t do bullet point presentations, so I need to recreate the dialogue for each section.

All in all, the reaction was positive.

The things I took away from this group:

  • Marketing must be taught in school that they control every aspect of the process.
    Siloing of disciplines seems to be something that is either inherent to humans or it is taught in school. Breaking down silos seemed to be a foreign concept.
    Industrial Design is severely misunderstood as paintbrush carrying artists.
  1. No one gets rich without good design and good designers.

Someone said this here in the forums, not sure who, but it stuck with me.

2. Design is the base/support/structure of a pyramid. There is nothing to build on without a design to sell.

You will find once I post my synopsis of my presentation that I don’t agree with this at all. If I were to use a metaphor from here (that I used in the presentation) is that Industrial Design is a leg of the tripod.

Your pyramid metaphor implies that Design has a bigger or more important role than Engineering, Mktg, or other disciplines.

Silos, Us vs Them, NIH…whatever…need to go. We need, very badly, to embrace a more collaborative environment than currently exists in most corporate settings.


I understand the tripod metaphor, and it does make quite a bit of sense.

My line of thinking with the pyramid example is that there is no money to be made, nothing to sell, without a design that can physically be sold (specifically speaking product design for this example).

But, I can think of several examples of where that might not be true. I’ve known several companies that have become rich selling thousands of products that don’t exist yet on preorder, because their marketing is so strong, or they have such a strong engineering reputation, etc, etc. After thinking about this for a moment, the stance I’ve suggested with the pyramid is a bit defensive. Where your approach is much more balanced and team-oriented… And that is a much better approach to this whole professional design experience.

I think it might actually be a 5 legged tri-pod… yup, a penta-pod:

Product Marketing
Brand (Marketing/Design/Advertising)

i was just in the process of writing a reply something to that effect (but didn’t have such a good name as “penta-pod”).

for sure there is more than product involved. while you cant make money if there’s no product, you cant make money either if there’s no sales/distribution.

yo, im curious as to why you separate product marketing from brand (marketing/ad/etc.). i see the product as more of a by product of the brand w.r.t to product/brand positioning and opportunity, a more integrated approach. i tend to believe that while product design can be conducted separately from the brand, its not generally a good idea…if the product is right, it should be directly evolved from the brand design and DNA.


I have to admit, I have had very little interaction with sales. Every place I dealt with considers Sales to be part of Marketing…or less a part of the Product Development Cycle…even not at all.

With that in mind, and the idea that I have wrapped Brand and Product Marketing under one umbrella, is where I tend to go with the tri-pod…but would definitely conceed a quadra-pod :wink:

What is everyone’s experience with Sales? Do they play significant role in the Product Dev cycle? The Danger I see in involving Sales too deeply is feature creep. Every Salesman I have talked to “needs this feature or that feature” to sell more product.

May be based on my experience with bigger corps, but product marketing handles relationships with sales and accounts, helps plan numbers side of the biz, and things in that realm. While Brand Marketing is more involved with advertising, corporate events, PR, vertical retail and showrooms…

99% true in my experience. at the same time its the role of the designer to respond to some extent to these requests, keep sales happy, and avoid the feature creep as much as possible. put it this way- if sales are on board (or even better think its their idea), you will have much more success than pushing something down their throats.

all too often ive seen great designs fail because sales doesnt believe in them. a good designer i think needs to be most preemptive and understanding because without sales nothing a design wont get to market. the best design is nothing if there is no generation of sales (not to say that sales is the only factor in good design).


I have finally posted my presentation synopsis on my blog. It is simply too big to post here.

Let me know what you think. I would love feedback.

Once you move outside of the tangibles of the product (design and engineering), aren’t you talking about the 4 P’s or the marketing mix, rather then a tripod or penta-pod.

If 4 P’s weren’t enough, you can look to 3 more - People, Process, Physical Evidence - when dealing with services. Although it surprises me greatly that ‘People’ does not transcend all.

Sales’ perspective (IMHO) is typically too close to today, much too late for any product development initiatives. Their role, however, is important, especially when you can help create design advocates.

Did anyone mention the distinction between the way engineers think and the way designers think, I try to remember this when I talk to engineers at work.

Engineers are interested in setting up an ever increasing set of constraints, like a funnel, to arrive at the most efficient solution.

Designers, think about it in sort of the opposite way right? Set up lots of constraits, only to try to find a way around them or to tell the client that their constraints arent really what would be the best for their project.

Does anyone agree with that?