Ignorant designers have been singled out as one of the biggest obstacles facing design last week by one of the leading commentators on design and innovation in the US, Bruce Nussbaum.
In a keynote speech given at the Royal College of Art’s annual Innovation Night on Tuesday last week, the assistant managing editor of Business Week concluded by saying, ‘The two biggest barriers to innovation are ignorant chief executives and ignorant designers’.
Nussbaum suggested that undergraduate designers need to expose themselves to the tangible, everyday challenges facing the outside world, rather than rely solely on abstract, college-based learning.
He went on to say that design, innovation and technology are merging at such speed that it is pointless to try to classify disciplines.
‘You may as well call [the phenomenon] a banana,’ Nussbaum says.
Speaking to an audience comprising design practitioners, academics, students and the media, Nussbaum reiterated some of the prominent issues affecting design and innovation, as well as social trends that influence global business, including sustainability and social networking.
The US business community, he says, still associates design with cosmetic change, rather than practical problem-solving, technology and innovation.
‘This is something that needs to change. Design is “the” way of reaching the consumer populace,’ he says.
Nussbaum says solutions to the issues affecting business will only emerge if design thinking becomes integral to the way a business operates. Managers and chief executives, he says, need to become designers, not just hire them.
Commenting on the lecture, Professor Jeremy Myerson, director of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre and one of the key organisers of Innovation Night, says, ‘The big take-out for me was his assertion that managers need to become designers, rather than designers become managers.
‘It was great to have him come over and speak at RCA Innovation Night. He is at the cutting edge in terms of understanding how US business models are now in meltdown,’ adds Myerson.