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Design And Innovation Are Sizzling--Companies Are Hiring Like Crazy.


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September 20, 2006

Design And Innovation Are Sizzling--Companies Are Hiring Like Crazy.

Bruce Nussbaum

I'm in Austin, TX at the last day of the IDSA annual conference and one thing is very clear--companies are hiring a hoard of designers and there is a shortage of the very best. After talking to recruiters and corporate types, I can safely say that 2006 was a tipping point for design. Companies are committing to building up their own in-house design departments and bringing design in-house as a core competence.

Companies are hiring at all levels--beginning, middle and very senior strategy levels. Three new vice-presidents of design have been announced in thed past three months, at IBM, HP and another big company.

Companies are moving design upstream--using design to shape the corporate strategic vision and brand vision. Many CEOs are demanding that design have a straight connection to their office.

This is very important. After pushing on the door of the business community for years, the doors are being flung open and business is embracing design. Now design has to deliver. At the IDSA conference, this is the big topic. Can D-Schools deliver the skilled students now in demand. And just what skills are now needed by companies?

Tonight I don my tux and help give out awards to the gold winners of 2006. Very exciting.

08:21 PM

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Companies are moving design upstream--using design to shape the corporate strategic vision and brand vision. Many CEOs are demanding that design have a straight connection to their office. Read the full article here. And you thought it was just me [Read More]

Tracked on September 25, 2006 08:25 AM

Yes, you are right. There has never before been a time when designers were in such great demand. We have had to limit the number of searches we take in so that we can focus attention on the ones we have committed to. It's never been like this. Clients demand more than ever from designers--design talent is not enough. Thinking and convicing skills as well as a talent for collaborating across specialties and relationship building are equally important. The IDSA conference this year for the first time was combined with the design educator's conference and from my experience, the learning on both sides was enormous. For one, the design educators lament that the high schools are delivering to them students equipped to do less, yet the educators are under pressure to produce designers who can do and understand more. I don't think that design practitioners realize this. It was a great conference. Chock full of rich content.

Posted by: RitaSue Siegel at September 21, 2006 02:25 PM

While companies may be increasingly embracing design in-house, I believe a similar change has not occurred in how designers view in-house work. As a student, myself and others felt there was a certain stigma attached to in-house design - that ‘real’ design was done at design studios, at least for the most part. While I now recognize that this is unfair and inaccurate, I think it will take many Apple-style successes for this perception to change and for companies to be able to fill their ranks with top designers.

I still find working for an independent studio much more attractive, though it has certainly made my post-graduation job search more challenging.

Posted by: Rod Graves at September 22, 2006 03:46 PM

The relationship between design and innovation is an interesting one. Design does not have to be innovative to be successful. It just has to be appropriately matched to the problem. Innovation, however, does require design in one form or another.

Claudia Kotchka, Design Evangelist at Proctor & Gamble, explained that designers were historically called upon at the end of the project for superficial enhancement. Her dedication to “design thinking” puts designers and other critical personas together at the inception of the project. This is the stage where innovation and design merge.

Including designers in the whole process from strategy through execution makes perfect sense. After a decade of endless cost cutting programs, continuous optimization of resources and a religious fanaticism for ROI, the momentum is finally shifting back to a balance between managing the present and envisioning alternate scenarios. It is an organization’s ability to see, project and achieve a vision of innovative alternatives that suffer most when the quarterly returns are the only measure of success. Design as a core element in organizational strategy forces leadership to push its thinking back out toward the horizon, where it should be.

I believe that Nussbaum’s observation of the increasing role of design is correct. It is also proof that Richard Florida’s view of The Rise of the Creative Class is accurate.

Posted by: Chas Martin at September 22, 2006 06:54 PM

There is nso much said about how deisgn can drive business strategy. This is an overstatment. It is great to see that company see more value in design, there's still a lack of disicipline for deisgners who understand business strategy and be able to apply their thinking there. No D-school teaches B-school stuff. There is a demand for programs for designers to be converted to this new breed that can bring desigin to the board room. We are a long way from there.

Posted by: Idris Mootee at September 24, 2006 05:05 PM

We too are feeling the difficuty of recruiting good design staff. Innovation has become essential to stay alive let a lone prosper. What seems key to us in hiring great staff is identifying those who don't see design as something important for its own sake but select those that can apply great design skills to innovate and achieve things in better ways than has ever been done before. And it is important that "better ways" is measured by what is actually achieved. As the achievements deliver value to the enterprise the value of great design will be recognised. There has been a tendancy for fads to promote direct reports to the CEO and having boardroom access but the point of this discussion should be to highlight the value of great design not to create yet another Chief XXX Officer reporting to the CEO!

Posted by: Russell Yardley at September 25, 2006 06:51 AM

Well, if anyone is interested in recent IIT-ID graduates, I have a few who've LinkedIn to me looking for work.

Posted by: Niti Bhan at September 27, 2006 06:05 PM

I see Interest in and about design now more than ever before. And this is after my 30 years of information design. One would think with all this talk we would have better designed products and processes, but in my experience we do not. Industry still approach design as just make it pretty. And in part of this they come with the design problem solved so they think.

It does not matter whether designers are in house or in outsourced studios there are advantages of both, but that all can be lost if management has no understanding of what design is all about.

Corporate image is very important and no mater what the designer successfully does it will go all down the drain with voice mail hell, or dirty unkempt delivery trucks or the surlily driver caused by poor schedules design or management expetations.

One of the biggest changes I have witnessed over my career is the quality of managers. Previously the managers were better prepared to trust and delegate.

Posted by: Graham A. Brown at September 27, 2006 06:08 PM

I laughed reading that "companies are hiring a hoard of designers and there is a shortage of the very best."

So I ask you, who is considered the "best"? Would that be a person who co-founded the largest (in billings) design & advertising agency in North America (Ogilvy's B.I.G.)? Or perhaps a person who is also the most award-winnning identity designer (within last 8 years of so) according to Communication Arts?

My phone never rang.

Posted by: felix sockwell at September 28, 2006 08:02 PM


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