A Pratt graduate recounts highlights from a recent conference. By Guest Blogger Leigh Douglass Last weekend social entrepreneurs, thinkers and students gathered in Providence for the conference, A Better World By Design. The conference is organized by students who bring together engaging problem solvers from around the world to discuss a variety of issues, with a focus on social and environmental needs and innovation. In its second year, the conference boasted over 500 attendees for the three days of speakers, workshops, panels, tours, a design challenge by Core77, evening receptions and a gala event, all for an extremely affordable cost subsidized by sponsors. Themes discussed included collaboration and multi-disciplinary design because, in the words of Peter Lawrence, “two people are just a conversation”. Highlights included a presentation by Jaime Lerner who sees cities as a family portrait and the solution rather than the problem. His approach to “Architectural Acupuncture” through urban spaces showcased a design prototype for public transportation in Rio. This was referenced a day later in Anna Rubbo’s presentation on the Global Studio, which brings together interdisciplinary teams from universities around the world to engage with the urban poor in problem solving for better communities. To cover the conference would be exhaustive, so I will review a relevant panel focused on the integration of design and business. The panel was moderated by Bill Foulkes, and was comprised of a diverse group of seasoned professionals who have put these ideas into practice, including: Peter Lawrence, Maria Guidice, Christian Crews and Debbie Millman. Reinforcing the underlying concepts of design management, panelists agreed that in order to succeed, design and business must support each other, working together from the beginning of a project to its completion. Debbie Millman summarized this idea well by pointing out that 1) Talent is essential to operational excellence but design is not enough; one must be able to talk about their work, promote it and run a studio; 2) Design is not just about design, it includes ethnographic research to communicate value; 3) Prepare to know what you are talking about and why; 4) Consider strategy, which Michael Porter’s defines as choosing to perform activities differently or to perform distinctly different activities; 5) Know how to present your ideas, if you don’t, it takes away from what you are trying to convey. Maria added that a good idea has to be monetized and scalable. In understanding client constraints, losing the ego and having empathy for others in the organization, design and business need to work together to solve the unique challenges that the 21st century faces. Leigh Douglass is a 2009 graduate of the Pratt Design Management program and she specializes in Sustainable Textiles. Click here to read more articles like this one published in the current issue of Catalyst SDR.