1.13.2011

IDSA Innovation Intro - Winter 2010

Design of the... Weekend
This issue’s theme - Design in Business - was set to capture where we are in the ongoing discussion of design’s role in business.  Ten years ago, it seemed that the most common quandary of design in business was the quantification of design’s value.  Prove it – and - How do you measure it? …were common challenges given to design teams trying to justify budgets or break through approaches.
Something changed around the middle of the last decade, as the notion that there was a core ingredient in design that could be leveraged in business practice emerged.  Design process, or design-thinking as some refer to it, became the latest news worthy aspect of design, and it has triggered an awesome groundswell of interest outside of design, and often a misunderstanding of what this profession has to offer.
Design process is now being exported to many other disciplines and is changing the way companies are conceived, run, and reinvented.  Books are being written and seminars held to understand or infuse “design-thinking” into everything we do at work.  I was surprised recently as I visited the Freestore Foodbank, in Cincinnati, where John Young the CEO, talked to me about how he demands generative thinking, and creativity from his team.  In a place where I expected to see a warehouse filled with cans of cast off canned goods, I saw weekend “power-packs” carefully designed to feed kids who go home on Friday without much hope of a meal until Monday, and a tricked-out kitchen complete with roof mounted webcams to spread responsive food preparation tricks to church basements and soup kitchens who may find themselves oversupplied with figs. Wow.
I had not heard the term generative thinking anywhere but a design studio, and had previously been a bit worried about the generalized concept of design-thinking leading to misunderstandings about the rigor and discipline required to deliver great design in traditional product development companies.  But the Foodbank showed me the unbelievable power of design unleashed across disciplines, and even categories of companies.
Industrial Design baked these concepts over decades, and it is still true that industrial design excellence requires a commitment to the hard-core discipline and process of design execution that is necessary to produce the amazing accomplishments you will read about in this issue.  It is not enough to think.  You have to sign up for the whole journey, and sweat the details – from strategy to planning to concept to shipment and beyond – in order to deliver great design. 
The greater design opportunity is for us to ensure that we lead, evangelize and codify design practice into the many adjacent disciplines that we rely on for success, and to companies that may not be the typical customers of design – like the Foodbank, but where the results are possibly less sexy, but just as inspiring, and possibly more meaningful.
So, it is convenient that this issue of Innovation combines the spectacular work of the Design of the Decade winners, with a theme of Design in Business. The theme articles share carefully selected thought and work in this area.  This is work at the intersection of design, business process and education and it exposes inspiring initiatives and inner workings of thought leaders looking at how to get better traction for design processes, or how to utilize design to make business and the world it serves better.
Our guest editor Steve Sato personifies the integration of design and business. He has brought his trademark thought, rigor, and inspiration, to this issue.  Thank you Steve, and congratulations to the Design of the Decade Winners.
Finally, in this issue you will read (or re-read) the last Design Crime.  For ten years this has been the “book-end” of Innovation.  Budd Steinhilber has enlightened and amused us with this brilliant column, and is taking a well-deserved retirement.  Thanks is hardly enough Budd, for your indelible and generous contribution to this pierced journal and all of it’s readers.
Alistair Hamilton, IDSA
Innovation Executive Editor

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