Saturday, March 08, 2008

MIX08: The Business Value of Design

The role of design in business ...

"Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at Microsoft’s MIX08 with Dave Blakey (IDEO), David Watson (Disney/ABC), Jason Brush (Schematic), Jimmy Kim (Nexon), and our moderator Will Tschumy (Microsoft). We discussed many facets of creating business value through design and dissected a few key ingredients for success. Here are some of my thoughts on the outline we worked from (a full video of the session is coming soon):

What do you consider a design problem?
Since I come from a visual design background, I define a design problem as one that requires communication with people that goes beyond words. Though some might define design problems more broadly, I’m apprehensive about casting the net too wide. There are many problem-solving methodologies and a design approach is certainly one of them but I’ve found it’s not applicable to every situation. However, when you need to communicate functionality in an interactive application, or consistently deliver a brand message, or even present a corporate strategy with PowerPoint, a design approach is essential.

Is there a common understanding of design in your organization?
Jess McMullin did a great job illustrating the different levels of design competency in his design maturity continuum (PDF). The one in most people’s head is design as styling: “can you make this look good?” More recently, it’s become commonplace for design to be associated with defining functionality as well: “can you make this usable and enjoyable?” However, there are still few people outside the design industry who regularly turn to designers for problem solving and framing challenges.

How do you talk about the value of design?
Because design is often defined quite broadly, I make a clear distinction between the value design deliverables, methodologies, and principles can provide. Design deliverables (the end result of the design process) can help create experiences that are meaningful, enjoyable, and usable. Design methodologies can provide a problem-solving framework that leverages empathy, observation, and rapid iteration to solve problems that matter to people in the real world. Design principles can help people make sense of an increasing amount of information and opportunity. They simplify the world around us and make it understandable.

Each of these aspects of design is potentially valuable for the bottom line. Design deliverables help sell products and services. Design methodologies help companies stay relevant and in tune with customer needs. Design principles aid decision-making and organizational efficiency."    (Continued via Functioning Form, Luke W)    [Usability Resources]

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