Patrick Whitney is dean of Chicago’s Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology a graduate school focusing on researching and teaching design methods. He is a luminary in the ever-growing field of design strategy. His work focuses on design’s role in transforming not only products and services, but also companies and markets. And he is researching how companies and designers can better manage design strategy with effective methodologies. I recently spoke with Patrick as he was gearing up for the annual IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference, which will take place from May 14-15 in Chicago. He shared not only some sneak peeks at the line up, but also his wise and witty observations on how design and business can improve how they intersect.
RJ: "Reframing" seems to be a theme at the conference and also in the innovation landscape in general. Why is this concept so important when looking at design as an innovation strategy?
Patrick Whitney: The conference is a strategy conference. We think of strategy in the context of Roger Martin’s term -- deciding where to play and how to win. For the last 30 years, companies focused on Six Sigma, total quality management, and other efficiency programs. It was clear they could make profits and grow financially by doing a better job at what they already knew how to do. Now that companies have succeeded at decreasing costs, they see innovation as the path to profits.
Music shapes our experience of the world—it sets a mood, represents who we are (or who we want to be), captures memories, and defines a moment. The decision to embrace crowdsourcing as the DJ concept for the frog party was a risk in many ways. Who knew what the crowd might choose? What vibe would be created? Would it bring people together or further highlight our separate identities and divergent tastes? It was a meaningful social experiment—not only in music curation but also in social dynamics.
In order to fully embrace the experiment, frog dispatched 11 researchers to collect data at the party about music, crowdsourcing, and social dynamics. This article will both share the findings and reflect on the process that we used to take advantage of this research opportunity most efficiently and meaningfully.
At frog, we often find ourselves conducting research in surprising places all over the world. Those of you familiar with our recent trip to Afghanistanwill know that we conduct field research everywhere from private homes and businesses, to civic and social institutions, to very public spaces. When we're in the field, we like to create "pop-up" studios to facilitate rapid synthesis, ideation, and prototyping. Last month in Austin, we created a unique pop-up studio very close to home, at the frog SXSW Interactive Opening Party.
Milan’s Salone del Mobile began in the 1961 to promote Italian furniture for the export market. In the fifty-two years since, it has grown into one of the world’s premiere design events, drawing enthusiasts and attention from across the globe.
“From Tuesday to Sunday, the city comes alive with all sorts of madness,” says Executive Creative Director Fabio Sergio, based in frog’s Milan studio. “It’s not just about the furniture showcase but what is happening informally in showrooms across the city as companies and designers showcase what is happening within design.”
frog will be joining in the citywide design festival, hosting two events over the course of the week. On April 9, the studio will be opening its doors for an informal showcase of its work along with music and drinks. While the open studio is a Salone del Mobile tradition, this year’s event will serve as a housewarming for the studio’s new space.
This is an exclusive excerpt from my new book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers, which was recently released by HOW.
As I read through his resume, the designer stared at me expectantly. He had a wealth of great design projects under his belt. He had been seeking out personal projects to build out his portfolio. He had internships with sterling businesses and design studios. But there was one thing that leapt out at me from the list of core skills he’d listed at the top of his resume: strategy.
Not brand strategy, content strategy, interactive strategy, media strategy, or the MBA-land of business strategy. Just plain ‘ol strategy.
This has been happening more and more frequently, for a few reasons. In the process of providing strong service to our clients, we increase the likelihood of becoming a strategic partner. We finally have a seat at the table when the client is talking strategy—and we can offer a range of strategic services that verge outside what may be considered a designer’s core area of expertise. This is a good thing. With the ongoing expansion of design’s role in business, today’s designers are helping to solve problems that transcend mere decoration and instead impact the core functions of a client’s business.
But in our haste to be strategic partners, I’ve discovered that many designers don’t fully grasp how strategic services fit into their client offerings. And when I ask designers out of sheer curiosity how they’re functioning as strategists—what experiences they directly bring to bear on being strategists rather than having a strategic orientation—they can’t easily answer the question.
If you’re going to run a design-led business, it’s inevitable that you will need to talk strategy with your clients. So let’s explore the types of strategies you might create as a design businessperson, as well as how they may support the efforts of your clients. It’s my hope that this information will open up some new paths for you to explore in your career as a designer.
Today’s connected world is filled with product and service ecosystems that compete for people’s limited time and shrinking attention spans.
The quality and nature of the User Experience that these ecosystems offer is increasingly one of their most valuable differentiating assets on the market.
An effective Experience Strategy defines the vision and roadmap to fulfill the promise that a brand makes to its customers, expressed in terms of the long-lasting human experience it aims to stage for and with them.
The Facebook News Feed is the first page seen upon login by the social network’s 1 billion-and-counting users. So it came as no surprise that the company’s News Feed redesign generated a lot of conversation when it was unveiled earlier this month. Beyond the discussion of ads and algorithms, however, is the continuing evolution of Facebook’s “social design” strategy.
With a strong emphasis on prioritizing social connections and conversation, the company’s designers work to get the platform's interface out of its users’ way. As Director of Design Kate Aronowitz previously told design mind’s Reena Jana, “when we’re doing our jobs right as a design team, we do not want people to remember interactions with our brand, we want them to experience real connections with each other and with content. That is most important.”
The team's continuing commitment to this approach was evident in my recent conversation with the two product designers behind the News Feed overhaul, Robyn Morris and Vivian Wang. We spoke on the phone only a few hours after News Feed’s public launch, the culmination of a year of work by their team in a small war room at Facebook’s Palo Alto headquarters.