Ten Lessons for Design-Driven Success

Check out Fast Company’s 10th annual issue devoted to “Innovation by Design”, showing how good design drives innovation. These are their ten key factors that drive the “new kind of creativity”, and each one is elaborated in one of the articles in this special issue:

  1. Design starts at the top. In innovative companies, the CEO is very close to the top designer. “Only the CEO can get the entire company to focus on something,” says Google designer Jon Wiley.
  2. Apple was the first to show the way. Max Chaifkin contributes an oral history of Apple’s design, arguing that Apple’s design strategy has been completely misunderstood.
  3. Good design often takes years, not quarters, to bring results. Sometimes a failed product, like Apple’s 2000 Cube, sows the seeds for later successes.
  4. There are many different ways to build a design and innovation culture. Google, for example, does not have a chief designer and doesn’t have any design “rules.” At other design powerhouses, there’s a lead designer in the C-suite. It depends.
  5. Sometimes innovation and design doesn’t seem to be the wisest financial design. It can cost a lot of money, and the revenue stream isn’t always obvious. Apple stores all have a Genius Bar and their services are free. What other retail chain devotes 20% of floor space to something they give away for free? And yet, Apple Stores have the highest sales per square foot of any retailer.
  6. Today’s consumers want good design more than ever. The examples of success are online bazaar Fab, and Samsung, and new brands including Nest and Warby Parker.
  7. Watch consumers to get new ideas and good design.
  8. Design has to be embedded and linked to every other aspect of the business. Manufacturing, marketing, finance. It can’t just be shape, color, or even just interaction design.
  9. You need both the big picture, and a mastery of the small details. Examples include Jawbone, Flipboard, and J. Crew.
  10. Treat every day like it’s the first day of your business. Jeff Bezos of Amazon uses the expression “day one” to emphasize that Amazon is still just at the beginning.

I particularly liked their timeline of key design moments from 2004 to 2013, starting on page 35. Remember when Chicago’s Millennium Park opened in July 2004? It seems like it’s been there forever! Remember when Dan Pink published A Whole New Mind in 2005? Read these prophetic words:

It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that’s merely functional. Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.

This is a must-read issue! (October 2013)

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