Design and Business Relationships
Earlier in the year, KPCB Design Partner John Maeda hosted a discussion about design, creativity, and technology with friends and colleagues from the design industry. The panelists discussed and interviewed each other about their thoughts on the future of creativity, and the relationship between design and business. The discussion panel included Rob Forbes, Founder of Design Within Reach; Scott Belsky, Co-Creator of Behance; and Joe Gebbia, Co-Founder and CPO of Airbnb.
Yves Béhar, the Founder and CEO of fuseproject, who co-hosted the event, has become known for his decision to work with mostly startups, and take an equity stake in whatever they work on. “This is something that used to be the case in the 40s and 50s,” he says. “Designers used to be, really, the beholder of companies, they used to set direction, they used to create desire… they were all partners.”
Development as a Partnership
He discusses how this has changed, more focus was put on marketing, designers stopped working on such a diverse range of projects, and companies were more focused on a concise single image to be communicated. With the rise of the internet, and more direct communication between consumers and companies, the way consumers see a company is becoming less mediated by advertising agencies. “The best work a designer can do is going to be done working with partners,” Béhar says. “The best design work, I felt, was work I was going to do in the long term, and the best way to work with people long term is to not charge them outrageous fees forever [but] to partner with them, and to be rewarded for success of those enterprises.”
Bayly's Experience in Joint Ventures
Over the years Bayly has been involved in similar relationships with varying degrees of success. Product success has as much to do with the design as it does with the business model, path to market and distribution as outlined in our previous article ‘What is an idea really worth?’. This leads into the next question of ‘what is the real value of design?’ and how is this negotiated into the process. Design itself is intangible and as such is difficult to place a dollar value on but the value it brings to a product is clear in such things as the smartphone.
Designing with Personal Values
It’s important for us in the industrial design industry, and other creative industries, to remember that the landscape of communication is still going through it’s most rapid period of change. There’s a lot of choice for consumers, and the average person has moved on from the desire for pure convenience. Making more personal connections in business with who you work with, as well as a more personal approach to your customers, and in your image, is becoming more and more valuable to people.
In products, business, and design, people are beginning to value an experience. They want to shop where it feels nice to be, they want to use products that feel good to use. Especially in creative industries, I find the way Béhar talks about design in the 40s and 50s to be very much in line with what people are valuing now. While it has been clearer to see that the relationships between businesses and consumers have been shifting to be more personal, it’s still a little revolutionary to be thinking about it in terms of business, and perhaps it’s something we need to be considering more!
The 5L Keepafresh dispenser was developed in conjunction with Kambouris Scientific