Putting design and the bottom line on the same page

Helen Walters starts off day 2 of DesignThinkers

More businesses are embracing design and while the trend is positive, it also poses challenges for the design community, writer and editor Helen Walters told DesignThinkers 2010 on the second day of the conference.


The former editor of innovation and design for Bloomberg Business Week – where she covered the intersection of business and design – outlined in her presentation what she sees as key challenges facing the community today.

For starters, let’s move designers “beyond the realm” of the creative department.

“Designers in many big businesses are stuck in entrenched silos,” Walters told her audience at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s John Bassett Theatre. “Graduates are seeing how difficult it is to have an impact within the largest corporations.”

She also encouraged better communication by the industry. “Designers can often be dictatorial, inflexible, snobby – and they often don’t play nicely with others. The industry needs to present a coherent vision to the world around it and eliminate the insecurity that is rife within the industry.”
The need to impart the value and contribution of good design falls not just to designers but to business leaders as well, she added.

“Designers need the attention of those in the C-suite. We need more business decision-makers who understand, incorporate and foster design. We need more CEOs who are inculcated on the value of design,” Walters said.

Walters also called for education programs that better integrate both business and design concerns. Not enough business schools pay attention to the contribution that design can make to the bottom line. At the same time, design programs should better prepare designers to “take on the MBAs of the world.”

More big companies, meanwhile, need to keep moving toward “design thinking.” Giants like P&G and GE have become “standard bearers” for the discipline but more organizations should “seize the opportunities that design thinking offers.”

Despite the current challenges, Walters concluded, the design community has much to be optimistic about.

“I do feel optimistic. The challenges are tough but not impossible. Designers need to make – force! – the change.”

MARK NUSCA for ADOBE PR in Canada.


About rgddesignthinkers

The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD) is the professional body for graphic designers in Ontario. RGD grants graphic designers who qualify the right to use the designations Registered Graphic Designer and R.G.D., a quality signal of standards of professional practice. RGD has approximately 2800 members. Attracting over 1,000 participants and a full line-up of fascinating speakers, DesignThinkers is Canada’s largest, most important graphic design event. It’s an occasion to listen, learn and interact with peers from across the country.
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