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31 October 2014

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SYD SuperyachtDesign
The Superyacht Group

Design Debate - Q11

Carrying on from the Editor’s Letter in Q10 and comments we’ve received from readers, in this issue we look at the business and management side of design and its relevance to the yachting industry. Are corporate executives the best choice to manage the creative process? Can top-level managers also be designers, or do you need an MBA to qualify? If the solution to a design problem is framed by business first, where does that leave the role of the designer?

1. Should designers be allowed complete freedom of expression, or is management always necessary?

2. Are non-designers well placed to manage creative people?

3. How can design thinking benefit business thinking?

4. In what ways does design management differ from design leadership?


Category: Yachtbuilding & Design

No photograph available

Lloyd Princeton
Design Management Company

Should designers be allowed complete freedom of expression, or is management always necessary?
I think the two are mutually exclusive at the onset of the creative process. Problem bashing has the unique ability to not only solve an immediate issue, but to also open doorways that may not have been anticipated: an innovative concept, a new way of providing an old service, a better process to make an existing product, and so on. I think there is huge value in allowing designers an unfettered response at first and to mind map whatever comes to the surface. From there, results can be ‘managed’ into parameters that may be necessary for a specific project; budget and timeframe being the usual culprits. I recently spoke with a colleague of mine who was engaged to deal with some basic marketing issues and came up with an idea for a line of hair care products. Alas, here is where a touch of business management could have helped: he failed to get something in writing for this additional concept and his compensation was largely a ‘thank you’. Big lesson learned.

Are non-designers well placed to manage creative people?
It really depends on the people: who is managing and who is being managed. If each person has a basic understanding and respect of the other person’s job function (and personality), then there should be no problem. One of the reasons I have enjoyed being in the management side of the design industry is because I thoroughly enjoy design and the creative personalities behind the process. The industry mixes creativity and business and a lot of good is done for the world, while a lot of money is made at the same time. The idea of a good manager is one who supports the creative people and provides them with the tools (space, materials, a paycheck) needed to get the job done. Offices and businesses do not run themselves and I’ve seen far too many designers try to manage it all, only to come up short in one area or another and experience ‘burnout’, because there isn’t time in the day to do everything. So yes, a peaceful and synergistic co-existence can exist between non-designers and the dreamers.

How can design thinking benefit business thinking?
Easily. Design thinking can breathe life into old ideas and make the process fun at the same time. Take the work of Tom Ford and Gucci, for example. The brand was tired and largely diminished in value in the eyes of consumers. The name was over-licensed and knock-offs abounded everywhere. Enter Mr Ford (creative) and Domenico De Sole (business) who together, over two decades, built the brand into a multi-billion-dollar powerhouse, returning the lost cachet, cancelling many of the licences and selling the product out of their own corporate boutiques. Without the inspired and sexy designs of Tom Ford as supported by Mr De Sole’s business acumen, the story would not have been a success. As we watch the Tom Ford legacy unfold, he has branched off on his own under his own label, creating even higher-priced products than Gucci, while letting his creative impulses move into other sectors including film with the Oscar- nominated A Single Man. No doubt his enterprises embody both creative and fiscal sensibilities.

In what ways does design management differ from design leadership?
I think that design management supports the creative process and day-to-day operations of a practice. Design leadership is the visionary guidance that is often embodied by the design principal, or firm’s namesake, who knows where he or she wants to go and also knows that proper support is needed to get there. I have seen a lot of bad design that is churned out efficiently and profitably by a successful business person. I have also seen genius talent go out of business because of fiscal irresponsibility. My favourite combination is to see great design flourish that is also a financial success for everyone in the business. This requir


Category: Yachtbuilding & Design

No photograph available

Ron Cleveringa
Burger Boat

Should designers be allowed complete freedom of expression, or is management always necessary?
Each custom design is intended to be a direct reflection of the owner’s personal aspirations and lifestyle. As such, the designer must be given flexibility to incorporate these reflections into the design. However, there are commercial realities that need to be acknowledged, including the owner’s required timeline and budget. Designers must understand and work within these parameters to make the project a positive experience for the owner.

Are non-designers well placed to manage creative people?
A non-designer can manage creative people. However, that does not necessarily mean that they are better suited to do so. Who manages the creative side of a project is dependent upon the situation and the individuals involved. Many creative people are very good business people who understand both the creative and commercial aspects of their business. It has been our experience that developing budgets and timelines that are agreed upon by the owner, the designer and the shipyard makes for an efficient project. When each team member understands, agrees and works within these parameters, the project remains on track and on budget, which results in a positive experience for everyone.

How can design thinking benefit business thinking?
Creative thinking is always a benefit to a business. It helps stimulate new and innovative ideas for business strategies. Creative thinking provides insights as well as constructive ‘tension’ within the process encouraging the business to be innovative and proactive.

In what ways does design management differ from design leadership?
Ideally, there should be no difference between design management and design leadership. So long as the end goal is understood, realistic expectations are determined and a proper budget established, the design process itself would assure that the goals of the client and the business are met. It is management’s responsibility to create an environment in which processes and procedures are developed that promote efficient, creative expression.

Ron Cleveringa
Burger Boat Company


Category: Yachtbuilding & Design

No photograph available

Ed Roberts
Hodgdon Yachts

Should designers be allowed complete freedom of expression, or is management always necessary?
I don’t think the question is whether management is necessary; I think it is more a question of what is management. Good management is about achieving a vision and leadership, not control. In this sense, there can be tremendous freedom to the designers in support of the vision. Vision is by definition a creative process, even if it is not design per se. The bolder the vision, the greater the freedom to create design in support of that vision. I would argue that the more successful a company is, the more likelihood design and creativity have played a leading role. The problem of restricting freedom of expression in design may, more often than not, be little more than management’s lack of vision.

Are non-designers well placed to manage creative people?
Generally not, but then again, good designers seldom make good managers. The single biggest shortcoming I see in the credentials of managers, especially in a creative staff setting, is the assumption that an MBA qualifies one to manage. I have lived through countless examples in our industry that leave me feeling MBA programmes have one fatal flaw: they seem to teach that if one understands the numbers, one understands the business. That may be true if you manufacture soap powder, and I doubt even that, but I know in our industry that is almost never the case. The flaw in that thinking is nowhere more at odds with reality than in a creative setting, where the nuances of art and design can be everything and typical numerical analytics can be quite meaningless, except to someone who knows nothing else.

How can design thinking benefit business thinking?
If it doesn’t, you have bad management or bad design, or both. There’s art, there’s craft and there’s the mundane. It’s the same in business. Good design thinking is about creating an innovative solution, not just doing something in the same way, but by bringing unique, elegant (efficient) and aesthetically pleasing solutions to the design problem. It is about evolving, often constantly changing. Good business thinking is no different. Innovating attractive unique solutions, constantly changing and adapting, are lessons from good design and are often what distinguishes real business leaders from the mundane. There isn’t a formula for creating good design, and the truth is there isn’t for business either, because if you are not willing to be creative, adapt and add to the aesthetic around you, you will simply find yourself among the mundane, or worse.

In what ways does design management differ from design leadership?
It doesn’t, or rather, it shouldn’t. Leadership focuses on results, not strategies, and you can’t do that unless you know where you are and where you are going, which is what we often think of when we think management. Managing without a vision of direction isn’t management, it is control. Leadership without monitoring the outcome isn’t leadership, it’s a daydream. An effective design programme is one where a bold vision exists and the design process is led in that general direction, with lots of room for creative solutions (and failures), while all the while monitoring the outcomes and having the courage to change course.

Ed Roberts
Hodgdon Yachts


Category: Yachtbuilding & Design

 

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