Design unto others

Most people will agree that good design is important to corporate success. And as someone who loves the functional arts and who builds studio furniture in my spare moments, I believe that as well.

I do dig great looking - and great functioning - design.

But in the never ending quest to figure out exactly what design does - how do you measure this thing? - I ran across a couple of stats in an article about designer Yves Béhar in Fast Company that interested me.

A three-year study of more than 40 Fortune 500 companies by the research firm Peer Insight found that companies focused on customer-experience design outperformed the S&P 500 by a 10-to-1 margin from 2000 to 2005.

Fair enough, but being a little skeptical I wonder how "customer-experience" was defined in the study. And then there was this:

Steven Kroeter, president of Archetype Associates, a consulting firm specializing in 'design asset management,' examined the backgrounds of 368 board members of the 30 Dow Jones Industrials and discovered only one--Steve Jobs, at Disney--with a design background. 'It doesn't appear that design has yet evolved into an area of expertise that companies feel compelled to recruit for on their boards,' he says. 'Whether this is because design is only skin-deep in the U.S. business world or because it's still just too early in the process, only time will tell.'

Three-hundred sixty-eight to one does seem a bit out of balance, so it would appear that more boards could use more designers in those seats.

On the other hand, this remark from the designer himself suggests that what might be measured might also be purposed.

His holistic view of design is rare in the business world. 'The simplest definition of design,' Béhar says, 'is how you treat your customer. If you acknowledge their intelligence, and treat them well from an environmental, emotional, and aesthetic standpoint, you're probably doing good design.'

Is good design quantifiable? I'm still not sure. But I like the idea of design unto others.