The hope of our original collaboration with the IDSA was to serve as an inspiration to American industrial designers, who were overshadowed by their European and Japanese counterparts in the 1970s and '80s. During his early days on the beat, Nussbaum says design was an afterthought in corporate boardrooms -- if it was given any consideration at all. "Companies used design like paint, to slap on a color or a fancy shape after the engineers and marketing people came up with a product," he recalls.
Now designers are creating not just products and services but also shaping how customers experience them. "Design has become an integral part of a company's core competence," Nussbaum says. And designers have learned to speak the language of business. These days, traditional marketing methods -- focus groups and market research -- are giving way to the tools of design analysis, which focus on behavior.
Through the years, our issue has highlighted the leading edge of design. BusinessWeek's focus has been on functionality and ease of use, as well as on style. Often, less is more.
Our report on the best in industrial design begins on page 60, and you'll find a complete list of winners plus an expanded photo gallery on BusinessWeek Online. There's plenty to drool over. By Stephen B. Shepard, Editor-in-Chief