The Power of Design

Problems such as Paul’s are pervasive in companies as they seek new paradigms of innovation. Right now, there is increasing interest in product development, and managers are faced with the challenge of changing their company from a project-based one to a product-based one. Businesses have long been familiar with the world of engineer­ing, but business is still learning to understand other members of the product development team, such as the role of product development consultants and industrial designers.

As an example of the evolution of the interaction of business and industrial design, consider how Business Week’s editorial page editor, Bruce Nussbaum, became interested in innovation. Nussbaum is a frequent flyer, and it was a particular flight that sparked his interest in better understanding innovation. Near him was a mother with a young child, the worst potential challenge to a quiet and uneventful flight. As he anticipated, the child started to cry, and his mother gave him a bottle to quiet him down. Usually, Nussbaum would have set­tled back in his seat to get back to reading, but he noticed something different. The child was holding the bottle in a unique way. The bot­tle was split in the middle and formed an integrated handle that the baby could more easily hold than the diameter of a conventional bot­tle shape. He wondered who was responsible for the innovative shape. The Evenflo bottle Nussbaum had observed led him to become an advocate for good design. As an editor for Business Week, he started to write articles about design for the magazine. This even­tually led to Business Week’s sponsorship, along with the Industrial Designer Society of America (IDSA), of the annual Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).

Nussbaum’s groundbreaking articles have been instrumental in expanding the understanding of the role designers play in new prod­uct development, and he has probably done more to introduce this type of innovation to the business community than any other contemporary writer. In the summer of 2004, Nussbaum wrote a Business Week cover story, “The Power of Design,” an article that has struck a major chord in the business world. Along with his role as edi­torial page editor, he has been the design editor for the past decade. Even though his articles have always helped connect design and busi­ness, this article somehow made a deeper penetration than the oth­ers. The timing of the article recognized the emerging theme of design and innovation as the new force in American business and major corporations throughout the world.