It is clear that good design is an important component of corporate success: many studies have shown this and best practices such as Apple, Tesla, dm or Patagonia live it, each of the companies in its own way. What these role models have in common is excellence thinking, which is also reflected in design: They want to develop their capability to the fullest and do everything they can to develop it. In successful companies, design excellence is a decisive factor. Its expression is adapted to the strategy in each case.
The extremely positive response to the last bayern design study on the value of design by Joachim Kobuss (Online in German, 2022) has encouraged bayern design to continue promoting research on design for business and to make knowledge about design and its impact mechanisms accessible to the business community and interested members of the public. With Prof. Jan-Erik Baars from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, an international expert has now also been recruited. He is the author of the design management handbook “Leading Design. Using Design Strategically. How companies unleash their full potential!” (Munich 2018).
Design is more than just beautiful surfaces!
In a comprehensive study, Prof. Jan-Erik Baars from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts has now worked out the design capabilities and tried to clarify how these can be optimally developed in a company. Within the framework of a case study with the companies Miele and USM as well as a comprehensive online survey of 57 companies, a comprehensive framework was created that captures and describes design capabilities. The goal was to develop a maturity model that helps companies identify strengths and weaknesses and thus also develop design excellence.
Starting from a construct derived from existing models of design capability in a preliminary study, a variety of aspects of design capability have been collected. These were enriched by qualitative feedback from interviews with executives of the companies Miele and USM. In an empirical study using an online questionnaire, 18 criteria for evaluating design capability were derived and transferred into a framework.
The evaluation of the results of the 57 companies shows a differentiated picture: Overall, the ability is rated as inadequate, with the results for the top and low companies being far apart. It is striking that the ability to plan and direct design was rated far worse than the competencies of the design creators themselves. Design planning emerged as the skill that was rated the lowest. Management for design activities emerged as the construction site in most organizations. Design management is rated as an underdeveloped but essential capability. The participants in the survey see this competence rather not with the design creators, but somewhere else in the organization. It is also clear that top companies are bundling their brands and design activities and bringing them together both strategically and operationally in order to create a coherent and consistent overall picture.
The study also shows that there is a clear correlation between design capability and corporate success: companies that think in terms of excellence and handle design accordingly achieve significantly higher customer acceptance and see themselves as more resilient. Design-capable companies can exploit the potential of guided design and secure both top- and bottom-line advantages. The ability to use design optimally for the company is one that must be developed primarily through management: Designers are required to continuously improve their expertise and adapt to change, but not to the extent that they themselves must create and control the framework conditions for their functional role. Here lies an important task of operational management, which is not really taken up at the moment, with the exception of brand management. The author of the study, Prof. Jan-Erik Baars, therefore considers adding design management tasks to the latter to be an important and purposeful step in the development of design capability in companies
Thanks to the partners
Partners of the study are the companies Miele and USM, which made themselves available for two explorative case studies and also supported the study financially. In addition to bayern design, the design associations designaustria, Internationales Design Zentrum Berlin (IDZ) and the Swiss Design Association (SDA) promoted the dissemination of the resulting online questionnaire, the evaluation of which constitutes the main content of the study. Thus, this study is based on a broad panel and partners from the entire DACH region. bayern design would like to thank all partners who made this study possible, and especially its author, Prof. Jan-Erik Baars, who approached bayern design with his project idea.
Prof. Jan-Erik Baars, born Nov. 1964, is Dutch and has lived in Germany for many years. He began his career in 1990 as an industrial designer at Philips in the Netherlands. There he designed medical systems, lighting and consumer electronics and was most recently responsible for the small electronics division as head of design. While working as a designer, he won all the major design awards, including the Rotterdam Design Award in 1995. In 2009, he moved to Telekom in Bonn as head of design management. In 2011 he started his own business as a strategy consultant in Kempen, advising companies on how to increase their effectiveness through improved use of design. Also in 2011, he followed a call to the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, where he led the design management field of study. In 2019, he moved to Lucerne to join the Faculty of Business, where he is now a lecturer and researcher. As such, he developed the Customer Centricity Score, a method to measure the customer centricity of an organization. In 2018, his book “Leading Design” was published by Vahlen Verlag. In 2019, he joined the board of directors of the Swiss design agency Vetica AG. From June 2019 to December 2021, he was co-owner and partner of the consulting agency Prenew. Since June 2021, he has been a shareholder of Customer Metrics AG, a company focused on measuring and developing customer centricity. For many years he has been writing and publishing on design and management issues on his blog designfokus.de. More at www.janerikbaars.com