Articles in #business


It were tough times for me, being a designer and being employed at a company that defined it’s 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?”

angry designer

It was one of these design events, like many others in Germany: after the panelists had held their speeches, it was time for the Q&A! Finally the audience had the chance to express their opinion, and some immediately took their chance. It was just a question of minutes for the question to be asked – the one on the status of design within companies!

locked out

Desperately but somewhat clueless he was  trying to unlock the entrance door with his id-card – like all of us, he had this plastic card on a practical belt clip – but the door didn’t open. I released him out of this hopeless situation by opening the door with my personal card and let him in. It was quite obvious that he was a colleague from within the company, and as it turned out, he was actually looking for me. “Why are the doors locked for company employees”, he immediately wanted to know, “there is a control right at the main entrance?”


Now, after many years of collaboration, I can say for sure that he’s truly favorably impressed: by design, and by designers. I would even assume that he secretly admires us, the designers.

His initially reserved and rejective stance against any member of the ‘design-species’ was resulting from, what I believe, the awareness that he could never do, what designers do, but designers might be able to do, what he’s doing – at least if they wanted to… and luckily enough, they didn’t!

meta conductor

Within some companies the design, be it for products, communication or service, seems to be conceived and executed by one single person: all just fits together perfectly. But we know that many design activities take place to create this perfect picture. Those brands are a leading example to all other companies who have understood that a well orchestrated and holistic experience across all touch points solidifies their identity, and with that creates the basis for customer loyalty. Like to an orchestra playing out of tune, customers will turn away from companies, who are not able to harmonize the ‘interplay’ of their organizational parts to create a collective showing. Remember the story of the kitchen nightmare?

conveyor belt design

The project team met and the representatives from the various departments gathered in the so-called war-room. This room showcased the state of affairs concerning the running project through posters on the wall. My contributions to the war-room, the design proposals, were marked with neon-colored post-its, which made me wonder if this meant any good…

a brand is a brand!

The classical design job: a technical platform was given by the OEM, and not very outstanding compared to market standards (except for the new ultra fast laser optics) and also the features were not really differentiating from competition (no wonder, being it an ordinary PC mouse..), so the design needed to make the difference!

Together with product management and development, the designers tried hard to come up with a proposal, which would answer to all the requirements concerning usability, as well as clearly fit to the brand language the company had established.

A quick visit to the electronic store around the corner, including a benchmark session, revealed an overcrowded shelf with lots of similar, very competent and technological looking stuff. Well, it seemed just right to base the new design on the renewed brand values, and with that to create an authentic and outstanding form language to set this computer mouse apart from the pack!

can designers save the world?

Risk-avoidance is the topic of concern, even more so, since we do all now fear that the same fait as to those poor people in Japan could happen to us as well. The collective angst, which predominantly finds fertile ground here in Germany, is in line with one of our basic needs – security: we do want the world to work according our desires and vision – safe, in order, fair and fortunate.

That’s why politicians will do everything to ensure us that they can protect this state of heaven – and with that, hope for our vote.

In the meanwhile we know, that whether left or right, green or liberal, all use our angst to drive us voters into their political camp: the insecurity they accordingly address varies from prosperity in an economical sense, to fairness in a social sense, down to safety in an ecological sense. And business does the same, they also promise to take care of all our problems.

design driven innovation

Speech held at the Fraunhofer Innovation Forum:

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need innovation to progress.
We need innovation to keep our economic cycle going, which is still based on consuming and renewing.
We need innovation to help us climb the ladder of human needs, on our way to reach the final step… Innovation is there to bring us this advantage: Like a seed it holds the key to continuity. For our economy and society it creates value and prosperity, and in our economic system it‘s a mean to sustain against competition.

pirates in suits

The coordinated interplay of the various departments within a company is a similar challenge to steering a fleet on the wide ocean: how can you directs the various vessels in such a way that they behave like a fleet, and not like a bunch of uncoordinated pirate ships aloof?