Timeless reminders from our Catalyst archives, Dr. Mary McBride is interviewed by the Education Times.
Making Life Richer for Everyone
Original post and interview by Poona Jain, Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Repost: A Valentine’s message for 2017 | Designing Inclusion
Business is also a Design
Dr. Mary McBride, former Director and Professor, Design Management Graduate Programs at Pratt Institute, and currently the Chair and Professor of Creative Enterprise Leadership Graduate Programs in Arts & Cultural Management (ACM) and Design Management (DM) at Pratt Institute says the role of ‘Design’ must extend beyond just the creation of a product.
Mary McBride, took a leaf from Victor Papanek’s ideologies. Papanek believed in producing ecologically sound design and in making life richer for everyone. McBride does this too. She motivates students to produce products and business designs that have “heart”. Students are trained to produce only sustainable and environmentally sound business designs.
“We want to produce an economy that is benign by design,” she tells us.
How can you apply design to businesses?
We often hear design being used for products. Please clarify.
Mary: Design needs to be thought of more broadly than just about products.
Design shapes our world and mediates our experience of it. Most of our day is designed. Our conversation over coffee, our walk down the road, our saris and cell phones.
Business is also a design. The design of economies, local or global and the design of organizations provide a frame on which a canvas of action can be painted.
The design of business is changing. Worldwide people are requiring more than good products and good investment returns. They are also requiring assurances that business protects and preserves. No one wants to buy from companies that defraud or exploit or engage in practices that put human health or our environment at risk.
Design understands risk and reward. Good design manages risk by carefully selecting materials and methods. Strategic design saves money, adds value and builds a trust mark as well as a brand mark.
Business community does not hold designers in high-esteem.
How can they make any effective contribution in that case?
Mary: I am not sure that business does not hold designers in high esteem. When business is essentially producing commodities, it places less value on creativity than on productivity. But even then, good design can save money and time and reduce material use.
Every business that is competing for customers interested in aesthetics, functionality and price value needs to design that in. When design intelligence is included in strategy development, advantage can be designed in and waste designed out.
You mentioned that designers need to understand their role differently.
What do you mean by differently?
Mary: Designers need to learn about business strategy. Often, they are viewed and view themselves, as technical experts. They are, but their design training also equips them to manage complex interdependencies and to understand systems. They are trained to think strategically.
Unfortunately, they are not usually given the language, tools or frameworks to apply design strategy to developing business strategy. They need education and opportunities that enable them to bridge design strategy to business strategy. Our program provides that bridge.
At Pratt recycling has a new definition – you call it ‘upcycling’.
What are you trying to inspire in your students?
Mary: We are trying to inspire a strategic sense of the true cost of material use to business and to our environment. The aim of upcycling is not to recycle, but to reduce the consumption of new raw materials at the beginning of the product life cycle. Reducing the use of new raw materials at the front end of the process is more strategic and efficient as it can reduce energy use, air pollution, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Your programs brings with them so much energy and optimism.
What is Pratt seeing that other institutes fail to see?
Mary: We are seeing a future forming right now that is challenging every industry and every country. We find these challenges exciting, not overwhelming. Our curriculum addresses the issues, problems and challenges our world needs to address now. We are optimistic because we are activists. We think design can create new possibilities and new opportunities. Designers are thought of as problems solvers, but they are really people who turn problems into opportunities. We see opportunities where others only see problems. That is why our program and our platform ‘Catalyst: Leading Creative Enterprise’ have become so popular.
Dr. Mary McBride, leader of Pratt Institute’s initiative in Leading Creative Enterprise and Chair and faculty graduate programs in Arts & Cultural Management and Design Management. Partner, Strategies for Planned Change, an international consulting group specializing in strategic leadership of creative industries; visiting professor international universities including Esade, Spain; Koc University, Turkey; ISG, France; European University, Russia; former director, Management Decision Lab, Stern School of Business, New York University.