theory. What will these business
“design thinkers” deliver?
Jeremy (IIT): Innovation is the
result of good design. When we
successfully identify an unmet
need and then develop a new
product, communication, or service that solves that need and
makes money for the company,
we are innovating. I would also
suggest that form is the tangible
result of strategy. Considering
them different methods or an
approach is not constructive—it
serves to further highlight the
unfortunate (and often only perceived) gap between “designers”
companies like P&G, Steelcase,
and Target made dramatic, profitable changes. We should be
responsible for training management on the nature of design
thinking, when it should and
should not be used, and what
results to expect.
Q: Is design being led astray by
too much business thinking?
specific. Niche can be as successful as mass. Defining niche
values and attitudes does not
require design-by-committee. It
requires a POV. Ask Apple.
Innovation culture is different from design culture. I
admire innovation culture for
speaking the language of business and gaining a seat at the
table. But rational propositions
are the most obvious ones.
Cultural propositions are fuzzy
and require a specific POV with
a specific form. In this case,
design becomes more aligned
with art than business. All the
hype in the business press about
this fascinating thing called
innovation has led to an artless
design culture here in America
when an artful approach might
be the most needed. American
music, film, and fashion may
be considered some of our most
important creative exports.
American design is not. Is innovation to blame?
Q: Is design thinking useful
without design making?
January + February 2009
Scott (Cranbrook): Strategy
without form is an empty container these days. What we say
and how we say it—with form—
must match. If markets are
more specific, then form must
be more specific. Cranbrook’s
studio-based model of making
things puts form on the table for
hard scrutiny, measuring form
against content and context.
Design education is like a hierarchy of needs. When one layer
is satisfied, then the next layer
can be considered and achieved.
Learn the basics of making and
form, and then build toward
higher levels of actualization.
Cranbrook is concerned with
the craft of that form giving,
with the assumption that the
designer’s craft comes to include
more disciplines as the designer
matures—including the crafting
of business models, strategies,
production methods, marketing positions, brand messages,
etc. With the right foundation,
this maturity is inevitable as the
informed designer engages the
complexities of the market.
Q: What is the role of intuition
Jeremy (IIT): Design is not being
led astray by too much business
thinking; in fact, I would suggest
that designers need more business thinking. At IIT, we train
designers to work with clients,
not patrons. This is a critical distinction; we believe design needs
to create value for both the user
and the organization, which
requires designers to have an
intimate knowledge of an organization’s business model and its
This issue continues to polarize
the design community. In fact,
the thought leader who defined
what the Institute of Design is
today, Jay Doblin, was often criticized as a “corporate design shill.”
He did not mind this criticism.
I would rather have a designer
say to me that I am too corporate than a CEO tell me I do not
understand his or her business.
Scott (Cranbrook): Most markets
are now diverse, complex, and
Jeremy (IIT): I do not want to say
that making is not important (it
is what generally distinguishes
us as designers), but design
thinking on its own is valuable.
It is especially helpful for organizations that are trying to change
and transform. At its core,
design thinking helps identify
the non-obvious, non-intuitive
options. Right now, most businesses, when planning a change
or anything new, generally pick
from a set of known options.
A manager trained in design
thinking will not be happy with
these existing options, and will
seek out and develop options not
previously identified. This is how
Scott (Cranbrook): Some of
the best design happens when
designers simply respond to
their own needs. This doesn’t
mean that blue-sky fantasies
take over. Eames had a famous
diagram that showed the inter-