articles with #design management

on purpose

The designer and podcaster Sebastian Gier asked me some intriguing questions on design, business, purpose and meaning. Luckily he recorded our conversation! I think it’s one of the best podcasts so far and it reveals some insight into how design and business can come together in a meaningful way.


Balance is a state that people perceive as an ideal of particular attractiveness. If something is evenly distributed, in balance, then we attach a high value to it. Equilibrium of forces, of markets, of forms and structures, of opinions or even of values in themselves, is something “beautiful”. It is not without reason that Justicia carries a scale with which she can ensure that the facts can be weighed – in balance, and therefore just.



As there was something important to discus, my colleague took me „to catch some fresh air“: for me it was just fresh air, for him the same, but compounded with the heavy fume of a filterless Gauloises.
Soon after we had reached the terrace, the smoke started to penetrate in small cloudlets from his nose and mouth: the clear predictor of an imminent eruption! more…


Amongst mankind’s great achievements you will find great inventions like the wheel, the boat, or the water closet. Not hard to imagine where civilization would be without these… Most of these inventions are by now taken for granted: we don’t even bother to imagine how the world would be without them.



What a surprise! Just when he was ready to pay the customer took a final glance at the bill and noticed that the prices changed: not the 21 euro for the main dish, but 32,50; not the 9,50 for the dessert, but 15,80… Upon inquiring why the difference, he got a straight answer back – „the kitchen crew needed more time than planned and that’s why the costs have increased!“


system failure

Our world is a system that contains many sub-systems: the oceans, the forests, the climate – all are complex, fragile, and well-calibrated organisms with a system character. If one of the parts is not running well, the others will suffer as well: one weak spot will influence the overall performance. Systems can repair themselves, once they are not running well – unless the weak spot is getting larger than the self-curing ability of the parts involved. Then the whole system can collapse: system failures are the most wicked problems around us.



It was tough times for me, being a designer and being employed at a company that defined its reasoning based on financial indications, like turnover, gross margin, return on investment, and so on. Eventually also you, as a designer, have to define your reasoning according to such parameters. Unavoidably the question on the ‘return on investment’ (ROI) will pop-up, like “What do I get back for every Euro I spent on design? Tell me, what’s actually the ROI of design?”



The guys made a depressing impression, or maybe clueless when I joined them at the bar. They seemed to have all agreed on the fact that something was changing fundamentally – and that it would involve all of them.
But as much as they were in for a change, like in all those endless debates with clients and commissioners, the change happening right now was quite something different, and they didn’t had a clue how to deal with the situation: it seemed that their very existence was at stake!



They made the appointment together, father and daughter, in order to find out what the bachelor in design management is all about. Apparently she was looking for a study program in which she could follow her affinity towards creativity, whereas dad seemed to have something in mind, which would lead to a solid job qualification, and would be of real value in the economy as he knows it. That’s why the ‘management’ in the program’s title seemed to ease him a bit and accordingly he was very curious to find out what the heck ‘design’ had to do with it.
If it was their attempt to find a compromise between themselves that brought them in my office I cannot tell, but during our conversation, it became clear to me that she was there mainly because of the design, and he only because of the management.