Will Designers be Responsible for Creating the Next Efficient Business Model?
By Tyra Nicole Dumars
Issue 10 Winter 2012
As we are witness to major failures in the role of business and our economic system, we can’t help but to ask ourselves, who will create the next efficient business model? One could argue that with all of this uncertainty, now is the time that we need to discover the next driving force to put innovation at the forefront of American entrepreneurialism. And according to author and professor Bruce Nussbaum, designers are the catalyst capitalism needs to accomplish this in the 21st century.
A model in which designers spearhead business initiatives is “cause for true optimism,” says Nussbaum. Designers are trained to apply critical thinking throughout every step of the design process. They bring creative thinking, critical analysis, problem solving techniques, and business acumen to the entrepreneurial table; a skill set necessary for successful business strategy in our changing economy. Entrepreneurs with design backgrounds have skyrocketed to success through innovation – Youtube, Slideshare, Flicker and Vimeo, to name a few.
These tough economic times have lead many creatives to design their own means of survival. In true Darwinian fashion, these out-of-the box thinkers have capitalized on the start-up model time and time again. When looking at companies likeKillspencer for example, the affect that capitalism is having on the American entrepreneur is evident. Killspencer, a US-based company founded by industrial designer Spencer Nikosey, sells well-designed, sustainable bags and accessories. The idea for the company? Surprisingly it started as a personal project for Nikosey while he was still in design school, but in just two short years Killspencer has grown into a full-time business. It was Nikosey’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with his ability to use strategic design thinking that allowed him to take this small side project and turn it into a successful startup, despite the economic downturn.
So what does this trend in design entrepreneurship mean for big business? For Nussbaum, the common understanding of the word “creativity” is a broader and more inclusive term than “design,” accepted more quickly by venture capitalists, engineers and business people. Creatives have long been a part of industries such as advertising but with the new business models we are seeing creatives, as leaders, sprout up in industries not traditionally inclusive of design professionals. Embracing “creativity” is a key for designers to consider as they position themselves for the “f” word – funding.
A more critical change from big business to new business is the concept of framing. Through their product or service, entrepreneurs must “connect existing dots in unique ways,” creating a unique business spaces not previously considered. Hundreds of thousands of products and services exist on the market today, so “how does your product differentiate from what your competitors already offer? Has this been done before?” These are only a few of the questions budding entrepreneurs will be asked prior to receiving one penny from a venture capitalist.
Nussbaum’s suggestion that creatives are the catalyst needed to transform present-day entrepreneurialism is echoed by many business experts, as well as higher education institutions that increasingly foster the role of designers in business. Traditional business models have been put to the test in recent years, and their weakness and inability to adapt to the needs of an evolving economic landscape is now exposed. This presents the perfect opportunity for the strategic and creative thinking of designers to guide the transformation of the current system in to a successful and sustainable economic future.