Designers in business

My editorial last week on whether designers or non-designers are better at running a design business certainly stirred up some comment.

Design consultancy The Workers is helping Tate better engage with audiences through its After Dark viewer-controlled robot project

Source: © Alexey Moskvin

Design consultancy The Workers is helping Tate better engage with audiences through its After Dark viewer-controlled robot project

Thomas Manss was among those who got to the heart of the matter with his comment on the story. He said that whether or not you think designers are capable of running a successful business ‘largely depends on your understanding of the designer’s role’.

Manss adds,  ‘If designers see it as their primary task to make things look pretty, they will inevitably find the entrepreneurial pressures and any commercial scrutiny of their creations a distraction. In that case, they should probably not be running their own business.

‘However, if we, as an industry, promote design as a valuable business resource and believe that we can make a difference to the companies that commission us, our first task is to understand what adds value to a business.’

Manss is absolutely right when he points out that design is a valuable business resource, and two case studies published this week by Design Week prove this is the case.

In the first, we looked at how the Satellite Applications Catapult, which promotes the UK Space industry, uses design thinking at a high level to shape its business.

Sam Adlen, head of business innovation for the Catapult, says, ‘The aim is for the design team to be involved in every activity and project because of the unique thinking and approach they bring.’

He adds, ‘Education is important and we have spent a lot of time internally, ensuring that people understand that design is a lot, lot more than graphics.’

Also this week, Emily Gosling has looked at how designers are helping cultural institutions to better engage their audiences – using innovative techniques such as releasing rights-free images or creating robots that roam the galleries at night.

Design Week has also been working on programming content for Centaur’s Festival of Marketing, which will take place in November at London’s Tobacco Dock.

With speakers including Barclays customer experience director Clive Grinyer, ITV group marketing and research director Rufus Radcliffe and Fitch creative director Alasdair Lennox, the festival will look at how design and creativity can bring a positive affect across an entire business.

You can find out more about the Festival of Marketing and book tickets at

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