Chapter: Develop Your Design Proficiency

Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
-Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer

Design is a new form of competitive advantage for individuals and organizations.  Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The emergence of design as a leading area of research in business began over ten years ago.  What is design? What can you do to develop your design abilities?

What is Design?

Design like many “grand” ideas, design has a variety of meanings. Let’s begin with the dictionary definition of design.


–To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent.

–To formulate a plan for; devise: designed a marketing strategy for the new product.

–To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form: design a building; design a computer program.

–To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect: a game designed to appeal to all ages. (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009)

What can we learn from the definition? First, we recognize that design is a particular instance of creative behavior. Second, the outputs of this behavior are tangible in some way; e.g., a plan, a product, a game, a process, a building, etc. Third, designs emerge in the context of a need, which implies a consumer or recipient. Fourth, design is deliberate and structured. Design requires discipline.

In this chapter I will explain design, give examples, and suggest ways to develop your design proficiency.

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