Everyone thinks that if you just make a better mouse trap, you’ll be rich. Each business discipline has its own priorities in terms of mouse trap function and profit. As designers, we want to understand it all.
Sales thinks… that without them, there is no business- your mouse trap is nothing, if I don’t sell it.
Marketing thinks… if nobody knows there’s a new mouse trap, who cares?
Finance/business thinks… if it’s just about the bottom line, the trap isn’t important.
Designer thinks… if I design a better mouse trap, it will sell.
Design must be all encompassing. One must understand all aspects and priorities in order to create useful products.
In the second part of the design strategy course, we dive into marketing. We talk about marketing as part of the strategic mix, not to become professional marketers, but to be able to understand what marketing is all about when in a business or client meeting.
We skim the surface of famed marketing terms such as the 4 P’s, (Product, Price, Place, Promotion), we look at types of products (core, functional, augmented, potential) and try to define the ‘true’ solution a consumer is seeking when they look at goods or services. We stop for a while on pricing products, understanding how value compares with price (why starbucks can charge 4x more for coffee than say, Tim Horton’s or the local gas station) and why people pay more for certain things. We close off understanding how to define consumer needs and target markets. When we move towards the world of understanding brands, we look at product lifecycles, adoption curves and a few other marketing fundamentals.
It’s important to note that this marketing research is done in the context of the business strategy (which we learned how to analyze in the first part of the course). If we don’t have context, all the marketing research in the world won’t help our products succeed. That’s just my opinion, based on lots and lots of experience.
You might have the same glazed over look my students did this week in class as you read over these topics. I’m okay with that. It’s not that our designer/ students need to master brand strategy. If they did, they’d go get degrees in Marketing. They need to be familiar with the concepts and terms, so they can work well alongside marketers and agencies collaborating on client projects.
Should you feel the need to understand these points further, I would direct you towards our course text book, my favorite marketing book for non-marketing majors, ‘Marketing a roadmap to Success’ by Ajay K. Sirsi. Professor Sirsi was one of my MBA Profs at Schulich School of Business and he wrote this book to help simplify marketing terminology for us mere mortals, who don’t have the time for four inch thick text books. Happy reading.
The Design Strategy course at George Brown is neatly divided into three sections. First, we look at the context of business, then we get into the details of marketing and finally we end with integrating the design process into the business process.
This week we’re going to talk about the context of business. We all interact with a variety of businesses on a daily basis. Whether you pick up your morning coffee at a Starbucks, local independent coffee shop or by fresh beans at the grocery store to brew at home, by 9am, you have interacted with a wide variety of businesses. Someone made the coffee maker, someone pays rent and hires people at the coffee shop and someone hooked up the electrical outlets in your home. Each of those functions comes from a different business and each business has a history, vision, strategy, core competencies and operational plans. Each business is also affected by what is happening in its specific industry, the economy and the external environment.
We start with giving the students an understanding of how businesses operate and why they operate the way they do. We look at the driving forces of the organization. Then, we look at the businesses strategy, core competencies and operational functions. From there, we analyze the internal strengths and weaknesses, relative to the above mentioned strategic plan. Finally, we explore the external forces affecting business- the economy (how many of you buy less coffee on the go since the recession?), the environment and other social and regulatory factors affect and influence the business.
Essentially, we can all go on designing stuff, based on client briefs, because our bosses told us to, or because we just feel like creating new products. If we take the time to understand the business environment of our client, our industry or our own company, we bring an entirely new perspective to the design process. We not only design, but design in relation to the functioning business which gives us greater capacity, knowledge and insight that ever before. If we work from the corporate vision, focusing down through the organization and then widening back to the industry and external environment we can get an all encompassing view of what is really going on in business, allowing us to produce and manage stronger designs.
This Friday we are shaking things up. It’s time to put away our summer bags for a school bag fit for fall. We’re trading silk for leather, cotton for vinyl and soft sacs for sturdy back packs. Join us each Friday for Business’S cool.
Stories to inspire and educate, from owner and founder Jacqueline Sava.
Tuesday mornings you won’t find me at the Soak office. I’ll be held up in an interior classroom at George Brown College’s School of Design. My philosophies and practices combining design and business led me right to the Design Management program at George Brown. In class you ask? Well, I’m not taking classes, I’m teaching a class called Design Strategy. Essentially, I teach designers how to think and work like/with business people. I believe (and as a trained designer, I feel comfortable saying this) that designers should learn, at some point or another, that there is a whole world out there that doesn’t understand, speak or think design. More importantly, if we designers want to live in the real world, we need to learn to communicate, work and live in unison with business people.
Most of the students have, like I do, undergraduate degrees in various design disciplines. They all want to work as design managers, design directors or key players in the corporate world, bringing design to the masses, or at least management. Each week (or so) I’ll bring you insights from the classroom. A sneak preview at what we are working on, great books to read, insights from students, and experiences from the Soak office. It is shockingly true, that nothing is more valuable than experience, and these days, we are getting more than our fair share.
This photo was taken at one of our branding sessions.
Education is a core value here at Soak. We not only educate our consumers on best practices with our product, but also continue to learn at the office as well. We are always seeking to improve, share and develop ourselves, as we develop the business. Feel free to send thoughts and ask questions. Sharing knowledge is my passion and I hope you can learn new things here, to apply to your work and life.
Back to the design school, and a little bit of history on myself and the program:
The School of Design features many award-winning programs. Design Management draws international students together with diverse backgrounds such as Industrial Design, Fashion, Graphic Design, Advertising, Architecture, Interior Design etc. All students have work experience, ranging from one to several years, in various disciplines and countries. The richness of cultures, experiences and insights is staggering. There is nothing more rewarding than learning while you teach. This is my second year working with the brilliant faculty at the School of Design. In the past I’ve taught at Humber College (in both the Industrial Design department and the School of Fashion Business) as well as done lecture series with various business organizations. My background combining an undergraduate degree industrial design from an art college (RISD) and an MBA in strategy and marketing from SSB (York University) offers a unique combination of art and business, design and strategy. When I speak I try to bridge design and business enabling easy and enthusiastic communication from both perspectives.
Next week, let the games begin. I’ve got my school bag ready. Do you have yours?