Advertising is the art of getting a Unique selling proposition (USP) into heads of the most people at the lowest possible cost’ and if successfully done it causes a brand to get business away from the competitor, capturing finite space in the minds of consumers. Rosser Reeves, wrote the book “Reality in Advertising” in 1961 while he was chairman at Ted Bates and company and propagated a claim-based strategy for companies to advertise their product. He supported his strategy with research and used the packaged goods industry as the central ground, though the principles can be applied to other industries as well.
Looking at sales to measure the impact of a campaign might not yield an accurate result as there are other influential factors in a fluid marketplace. Reeves proposed an auditing approach where respondents are divided into two groups; those that remember the said advertisement and those that don't (penetration), then ask each group if they buy the product (usage pull). This helps to measure if the advertisement caused the consumer to buy, deterred them from buying or if they were buying the product anyway.
Once a USP is adopted, the campaign shouldn’t be changed too often and focus should be on one message to avoid confusion with multiple claims. This carefully decided upon USP defines a specific benefit of the product, different to that of the competitors and compelling to the consumer. Reeves also discusses the high number of misses in “brand image” campaign which don't rely on a USP and the importance of an advertiser to control his brilliance and focus more on results. Reeve’s “Copy Laboratory”, set up at Bates, that measured the effective delivery of a message in an advertisement before dissemination, is an excellent example of consumer research and Design Thinking in action.
The famous adage “learn the rules in order to break them” pretty much sums up the stance of most designers when it comes to perception of constraints. In business there are obvious restrictions, such as time, money, resources etc. and then there are the ones that we have to define for ourselves - the “simple rules”. An innovator faced with limitless avenues to explore with the mindset of discovery can get lost in the labyrinth of possibilities. However, simple rules can focus efforts, leading to higher odds of a positive outcome.
An article by Donald Sull, “The simple rules of disciplined innovation” describes four characteristics of simple rules. The first is to keep them less in number and easy to remember, in order to ensure adoption. The second is that these rules must be well-defined enough to apply to something specific such as an activity or a decision. He warns against making them too constricted, while avoiding making general statements. The third rule is to tailor rules to unique cultures and strategy of organizations. If innovations don’t align with the company’s resources and capabilities they become unviable. Finally, rules should leave room for practicing creative thinking, making them guidelines in essence. By putting a restraint on idea generation, companies (or even any team working on a project) ensures that the ideas result in a balance between efficiency and originality.
In “Design and the Play Instinct”, Paul Rand speaks of two powerful aspects of teaching design and really any other form of creative thinking. The first is the introduction of “Play” to the task at hand and the second is the imposition of formal limitations. His analogy between the latent psychological and intellectual factors present in game-playing as well as in successful problem solving is an intriguing one. This helped me better understand why gamification of tasks is being more widely adopted as an effective motivational and behavioral change tool. He then explains how rules bring about a boundary that invites creation, by in essence challenging the designer to think above and beyond. In reality, we are faced with limitations while coming up with solutions in the design management discipline all the time. These could be in the form of economic, legal, physical, material or even representation of our ideas which instead of taking away to the solution, actually add to how unique and well thought out they are.
It’s no surprise that the term ‘Design Management’ has sparked much debate, as the two pillars that it is built on; ‘Design’ and ‘Management’, are both far from exact sciences. Design Management is shown to be present in the operational, tactical and strategic levels of organizations. Its goals are either to control a creative process, support a culture of creativity or build a structure for design to function in. The key roles of a Design Manager are to i. Align design strategy with corporate strategy ii. Manage quality & consistency of design outcomes and iii. Develop new methods of user experience through human centered and cross disciplinary design.
Wikipedia takes us through the history of Design Management and talks about its transformation over the years. Design Management first emerged in the early 1900s with Peter Behrens’ vision and work for AEG but the term only first appeared in later years amongst architects. In 1956, IBM is believed to have created the first enterprise wide corporate identity in the US, shifting the paradigm in the way the value of design is perceived. In the ensuing years, different disciplines of design began to flourish bringing with it a method based approach to Design Management. Various consultancies materialized and books on the subject shed further light on it. Today, its extended understanding has grown to include terms such as sustainable, inclusive, interactive, co-create, open innovation and design thinking.
As the definition of Design Management remains in a state of flux, there is much research into how Design’s value to business can be measured. The Danish Design Ladder defines 4 stages of design application in organizations. i.Non-design ii.Design as styling iii.Design as a process iv.Design as innovation. Research has shown that companies in the fourth stage grow more consistently than others. Design Management advocates are constantly looking to find ways of measuring the impact of design. And who knows? Maybe one day there will be a standard commonly accepted across design and business.
In the late 1700s, when the industrial era was ushered in, it heralded a demise of handmade products. Machines and automated systems made production faster, cheaper and reduced the need for human input. The economy changed, the people changed and the way we work changed forever. In the early 1900s there was a brief movement called Bauhaus, to revive handicrafts with a modern outlook. Though this period set the trends in design for a long time to come, the meticulous and painstaking work of a craftsman was forever relegated to the shadows. Throughout the past century, there have been advances in technology that have placed tools in the hands of people and begun the inevitable elimination of the practitioner trained in that craft. Think iphone and instagram, think low priced digital cameras which have accurate preprogrammed settings, all of which let the user take a near perfect shot.
However, we as designers know it is not the tools but the way we ‘see’ that sets us apart. In our training as designers we inculcate a sense of awareness, of connecting the dots, the ability to ‘just know’ that a particular font or color will work magic for a brand. We are able to create coherence where there is none and perform the very important task of differentiating the brand. Using templates is akin to shopping at giant retail outlets where you know that thousands of other people would be dressed just like you. Can we afford to dress our brands up like everybody else? Even though templates have gained popularity in recent years, I know from experience that many laymen have trouble customizing templates to their needs. This can lead to a new breed of designers that fill this need. This is especially true of website templates such as Squarespace and Themeforest and more so for Wordpress, which requires some basic coding knowledge. This does create an ethical dilemma for the design community as it fosters the usage of such templates but sooner or later, we have to join the inevitable. (Disclaimer: This website has been made on Weebly). The cost and time saving these web templates bring in terms of integrating responsive and e-commerce technology is huge. In a way this phenomenon might drive designers to innovate more, come up with new and exciting media which requires skill and training to use.
In today’s environment, a business can only be successful if it constantly innovates, and to innovate it must adopt design in its processes and strategic planning. Design’s role has moved beyond the creation of products and services. Design thinking and design management each now have their place in design minded organizations, the former being an essential addition to the repertoire of a person even from a non design background. One of the major challenges faced by design managers is having to constantly reinforce the positive contributions of design to others in the organization. The leadership, culture and environment that design needs to function around, largely influences the amount of value design is able to create in an organization.
The incorporation of design in small and medium enterprises with little or no prior history of adopting design thinking, can be challenging. The management’s personal vision or other seemingly more urgent issues tend to interrupt the effective adoption of design, while creating strategies for the future. In the book, “Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value”, Thomas Lockwood suggests a ten step method to create empowerment and transparency of ideas and methods; all steps towards becoming a design minded organization. The emphasis is on evaluating the outcome of design in the light of its contributions to the triple bottom line of companies. Authors of management books such as Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Kelly, Daniel Pink and Richard Florida have each in their works written about the adoption of design in creating truly successful organizations.
Brigitte Borja de Mozota devised a research based value model in Design Management that would help to ‘measure’ the substantial or financial value added by design. One of the reasons that design is ignored or not given its due recognition is the difficulty in rationalizing its contribution to the organization. Managers/business owners need a familiar way in which to justify design spends. To this end, Mozota suggests using the well known Balanced score card method devised to monitor the consequences of business actions.The four perspectives of the BSC model neatly coincide with the four powers of design, or the four design values system: customer perspective (design as differentiator); process perspective (design as coordinator); learning perspective (design as transformer) and finance perspective (design as good business). I think this is one of the most important contributions in the field of design management as it speaks a language that is easily understandable by managers and business owners thus leading to less apprehension while adopting design.