Business Week recently launched an innovation and design quarterly entitled In, as well as a Website section specifically dedicated to design and innovation. Fast Company, with its Third Annual Masters of Design issue, and Fortune have also added significant design content to their publications. The business world appears to have discovered design as a vital strategic tool and economic force. Globalization and the Internet knowledge explosion have changed our world in unprecedented ways. Design thinking, which was previously relegated to dealing with issues such as form and function, has become the twenty-first century methodology for the development of new business models.
Unfortunately, the hierarchical nature of higher education has prevented design and business curriculums from keeping pace, though the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) has recently added a dual degree, the MDes/MBA. I have two main goals with this thesis. First, I intend to propose a new design curriculum that will educate design students as to the inner workings of the business world in order to position them as strategic partners with a seat at the board room table, rather than as vendors at the end of the line. It will teach them to be strategic content creators and authors rather than passive choosers of fonts and colors. I have accomplished this by immersing students in business research, professional practice, and the development of a precollege program. Students were also involved in the development of new materials (questionnaire, white papers, etc.) specifically created for the business audience.
Secondly, many business types equate the creative process with drawing and art (a “soft” discipline), when we know it is problem solving at its most fundamental level. In order to “inject art into commerce and elevate it from a business service to a cultural force,” as designer Tibor Kalman suggested, it is necessary to demystify the process and put design in terms the scientist and business person can understand. Thus, the question, “Can one objectify the creative process in a left-brained, planned and organized way?” “Designers make maps for places that don’t yet exist,” said Rowena Reed Kostellow, educator. Since those in the business world see things in black and white —on a spread sheet, graph or chart the bottom line so to speak—I have developed new materials that recontextualize design principles, process and practice for those in the business world.