DMI conference Amsterdam – Measuring the value of design.
How to measure the value of design is a complex but vital question. It’s a complex questions because there are a number of sides to it. For example, how do you measure something that is intangible and irrational (i.e. creativity), what do we mean by ‘value’, who are we measuring for, should we be reducing design to a simple set of metrics and what does this mean for policy makers, investors and small businesses?
These are some of the questions that were at the heart of the 15th annual Design Management Institute conference last week. The conference attracts a couple of hundred designers and design managers from some of Europe’s leading businesses such as BMW, Nokia and Carrefor. I went to the conference with one question in mind – “How can policy makers and small businesses better understand the value of design and act accordingly”.
Overview of the two days
As expected there was no single answer and lots of debate on how it should be approached. There were a number of great speakers that provided insights on the challenges from their own business or organisation.
There were some discussions on various approaches to quantifying the economic value of design. For example, Peter Zec, (President, red dot) presented an interesting design index based on research from the last 10 years of the Red Dot design awards. I am not qualified to say whether what he presented was meaningful as a measurement tool but it was an interesting approach.
Sam Lucente (Former Design Director, HP) presented the HP design team approach to measuring the value of design as part of the strategic decision making process and the dialogue with CEOs (as opposed to ex post evaluation). He presented a design matrix (balanced score card) that aimed to integrate all strategic aspects of the design intent of the organisation. It seemed like it may be a useful tool within the corporate context but also a tool for communicating to suppliers and policy makers.
Mikael Fuhr (Former Design Director, Danish State Railways) discussed how the company integrated design into the fabric of the business. He showed the multiple design disciplines that were involved in the running of the business and how they have evolved to using design in how they do business internally. What I appreciated most was his honesty and he showed that it isn’t always a smooth ride. Or in other words he discussed what I call the “messy middle”. He made an insightful point that sometimes when something becomes natural for an organisation it is hard for them to attribute value to it. Thus, after many years of great progress with design the company is closing down the design team.
One of the more academic presentations was from Xènia Viladàs. She was discussind measure the value of design in Small Buinesses. This was the topic of her PhD research. Here workshop was far too short and she had many interesting things to say. Because of her workshop I decided to buy this book – http://amzn.to/lkrS8Q
The event was rounded off for me by two great presentations from Alexander Osterwalder (Business Model Foundry) and Marty Neumeier. They provided a rounded approaches to communicating the value of design and the use of design by business.
The views of others
There are two useful storify posts by Joost Vanhecke that highlight some of the thoughts and discussions from the two days
>> Day 1
>> Day 2
There was far too much from the two days to fit in one blog post but I tried to reflect on what some of the event means for ecodesign.
• Ecodesign is a niche of a niche
• People working on sustainability need to get better at framing value and relating issues to specific circumstances / context
• Ecodesign often pushes rational processes (LCA, carbon footprint) into irrational spaces (design, creativity)
• We need to blend sustainability language with company design language (if it exists)
• Case studies aren’t that useful for businesses because you can’t copy an attitude