The following is the introduction to Design Forward: Creative Strategies for Sustainable Change by frog’s founder Hartmut Esslinger. The book will be released on Feburary 16, 2013 and is available for pre-order now.
After a long career with frog — the design agency I founded in 1969 — and as a creative consultant for some of the world’s best and most successful entrepreneurs, executives, and companies, I wrote my first book, A Fine Line — How Design Strategies Are Shaping the Future of Business. In that book, I focused on the corporate side of the business-design alliance and outlined why Strategic Design is most successful when it is an integral part of a company’s innovation and business strategy. Due to both the business focus and the limited space, A Fine Line wasn’t as complete as many would have wished, and I fielded many questions about organization and process in the field of design and in the working relationship between business and design. Because A Fine Line was published in German, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, the feedback was — and still is — global in nature. I used the questions, comments, and criticism that I received about my first book as my motivation for writingDesign Forward as well as for structuring the information I offer within it.
In general, the input I received fell within three categories. I used those categories to structure the contents of Design Forward in three parts:
• Part 1: Creating a New Culture of Design. In this part, I offer an overview of the design profession, its historic development, current challenges, and future opportunities. The chapters in this part explore what we mean when we talk about creativity, the role of creativity in business, and how my earliest creative experiences helped to form my own design practice and approach the process of “right brain-left brain” collaboration. This part also offers specific ideas that can help any company make the best use of design in its strategic plan and operation.
• Part 2: Shaping the Design Revolution. Here, we explore the educational opportunities and challenges of training students — of both design and business — in the professional competencies necessary for effective cross-disciplinary teamwork and collaboration. To illustrate the outcomes of the educational approach I outline here, this part includes a portfolio of the work of my own design students.
• Part 3: Leading By Design.
In this part, we examine the role of design in business today and how that role must evolve if we are to create a more productive, sustainable future. I offer my perspectives on the growing urgency for a more integrated, strategic role for design in business, along with a careful review of the power of business-design collaboration in driving the evolution of material and social cultures around the world. I provide advice for finding and choosing the right designer — and the right design clients — and examine the potential benefits of business leadership with a deeper understanding and appreciation for creativity and its processes.
History is inextricably linked to the future. In this book, I offer my personal views about the road that has brought design and business to their current states, and the best ways we can move forward along a new path by building competitive, globally networked industries fueled by Strategic Design. Much of what you are about to read is my opinion, and many may disagree with my views. But, I have been blessed with great success, and I have learned much from my failures, so my views, ideas, and proposals are, at least, worth considering. The only constant in life is change, and with that truth before me, I have kept the focus of this book trained on the burning challenges we face in transforming our current business relationships and models — issues such as outdated forms of corporate structure, overproduction of goods, financial and ecological waste, and unjust social imbalance. There will be many solutions to these problems, but they all will require new ways of thinking and working, not only between different professions — Strategic Design being well positioned as a holistic catalyst — but also across different countries, cultures, and mentalities. No matter what specific form these transformations take, we must move from a “money culture” to a “human culture.” That power shift has already begun, but we need to accelerate the change.