If, “Design is the first signal of human intention,” the intended message of this year’s DMI European Conference seemed loud, clear, and unambiguous. Design builds better business and is essential for business success. Designers are assets, creative assets, they are an organization’s creative capital. A business that values design and can weave the designer’s voice through their strategic process is more likely to build a sustained strategic advantage through innovation that respects people and community. However, a challenge remains for designers to be invited into the strategic conversation.
The Amsterdam venue, Felix Meritis, is an independent European center for art, culture, and science. Designed in Louis XVI style characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment, it is now an international meeting place with a mission to provide the space to reflect, connect , network and be surprised. Echoing the original design intention of providing safe space for dialogue and debate, the Meritis, on May 18 and 19, was the center for inspirational conversations that reflected game changing, challenging thinking about design in the 21st century.
Laura Caballero”s prescient post, “Ads Worth Spreading Challenge”, curiously intuited the surprising keynote presentation, Outside View: How advertising reinvented itself by Tim O’Kennedy, Director, LOGO Consulting BV. O’Kennedy has worked with some of the world’s most compelling clients and brands, and is now CEO of a creative organization that supports both the design and advertising industries. His presentation helped to explain the concept of the “brand” and while positing that “design is a brand’s value driver and a brand without design is nothing,” acknowledges that the design industry struggles to capture the hearts and minds of the client world. Caballero sagely sees ads as representing “the best execution of economic and social value by design.” that allows “corporations, institutions, and users to be part of the same conversation.” And, an opportunity to win hearts and minds.
Every year we expect that the DMI Europe Conference will be better than the last, RE-INSPIRED in Amsterdam met and surpassed those expectations with a celebrated roster of speakers that included:
- Marty Neumeier, best selling author of The Brand Gap, Zag and The Designful Company continued to provoke and encourage with his explanation of why design thinking is the new best business practice. Currently the Director of Transformation at the Liguid Agency, Marty alerted us to the unique role that design managers have in the 21st century, helping to craft the “designful company.”
- Alexander Osterwalder, co-author of the international bestseller, Business Model Generation, introduced a practical, contemporary, design-friendly model to map, analyze and design business strategy. With compelling examples of successful business model design and innovation at Nintendo, Apple iPod/iTunes and Nespresso, Osterwalder impressively threaded design management into an organization’s entrepreneurial fabric.
- Louis Kim, Vice President, Advanced Platforms Group, HP reflected on his experience as a product marketer charged with spearheading design through an organization. From a marketer’s perspective, he shared where and how a designer can integrate and influence the strategy process. What works, what doesn’t and the lessons learned from the ascendency of marketing in organizations.
- Philippe Picaud, Global Design Directory of the world’s second-largest retailer Carrefour, spoke of his experience as an in-house designer and the role of design in the corporation to fulfill the brand promise. From years of experience in large industries and organizations, Picaud spoke of the challenging strategic imperative to create an organizational framework supportive of the design discipline. According to Picaud, under the right conditions innovation, brand development and innovation converge around an organization’s growth strategy. And, while design may not spearhead innovation in an organization, there is no innovation exclusive of design.
- Mikael Fuhr, Partner and Managing Director of Managebydesign awakened us to the volatility, frustration, and dis-ease we might expect trying to sell design to management and stakeholders. Through 2011, Mikael was Director of Design at Danish State Railways and was responsible for the railroad’s visual appearance across disciplines and touch points. He also headed Danish Railways’s Design Vision Lab for cross-disciplinary user centered development. He shared how external stakeholder pressure can influence purpose and direction and, also derail it. He was both sobering and inspiring about the power of design. He embodied it !
- Hanne Osterberg of Droog, demonstrated MakeMe, an exciting downloadable design platform that allows ordinary pc users to make functional design decisions from a website and print digital blueprints which can then be taken to a local manufacturer for customization and on-demand production. Possible benefits of MakeMe, developed in cooperation with Wang Society, include lower production costs, less transport and waste, new design concepts, greater possibility for co-creation, no warehousing, and involvement of the consumer in the design process. A 21st century business model – anything, anytime, anywhere, and by anyone.
- Peter Zec, President of red dot & Co, introduced a new, exciting method of calculating the value that a company gains, or may be losing, through design. Zec explained the model’s method of calculating design value, shared case studies on how to raise a company’s design value and gave examples of what can be learned from the best of design companies.
DMI conferences always provide an opportunity to meet new people who enthusiastically share new information, new products, new and different perspectives. And always, designers’ conversations stretch beyond business mission and financial success to stimulate thinking and encourage conversation about the role of design in helping to define and develop an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future.
Many thanks to Max Bosio, NASCENT DESIGN (ITALY), Matthias Mueller, Mensch Design Innovation GmbH (SWITZERLAND,) Clive Roux, IDSA (USA), Ingrid Vandenhoudt, Enterprise Flanders (BELGIUM), Florian Vollmer, Info Retail (United States), and Cathy Huang, China Bridge International (CHINA) for helping to keep the conversation provocative and lively.
And to Tom Lockwood, for organizing this last conference as DMI President, a thank you. Another fine job, Tom! We wish his successor, Karen Reuther, all the right challenges and welcome her as DMI’S new leader.