Projects that are beyond designing, about the value and application of design.

Designdemandlogo.jpg.w180h180Designing Demand is an initiative run by the Design Council that stimulates business of many different types to engage directly with designers of all types in order to improve their business success.
The project is being rolled out by the Regional Development Agencies (RDA's) right across the UK. You can find out more at
I worked on this project at it's inception. There was a strong move at the Design Council to follow the example of Hilary Cottam's "Do-tank", rather than the more common Think-tank approach. As Director of Design at the Design Council, I and my colleagues wanted to develop a project that made the benefits of design tangible and measurable.
The end result had two forms; a set of "demonstration projects" with a small group of technology companies and another with a group of manufacturers.
The manufacturing project was called 24/7 and ran with great enthusiasm by Paul Sykes in Harry Rich's Business team and was formed around a group of diverse companies in the home goods sector. Companies were invited to join the scheme, and a package of activities was put together.
At the heart of the project was the Design Immersion. I had developed several ideas with Jonathan Ball, a consultant to the Design Council, but this was the favourite. The concept of the Design Immersion was to bring a group of the UK's best designers together for one day, have them visit and examine at all aspects of a company's business and activities and at the end of the day make recommendations as to how the business could improve through better use of design.
The designers were from different sectors, product, graphics and packaging, retail, web and design management, as appropriate to each company's needs. Their remit had few bounds, they could ask about any aspect of the business.
There were a few rules: none of the designers could be employed by the business after the immersion day, companies would have to find and commission their own design resources. And the Design Council would not pay for design, apart from that one day. After that, the companies were on their own, though the Design Council did fund an experienced design "mentor" to help through the following 18 months, whilst progress was reviewed and performance measured.
The results were amazing. Companies were, and are still, turned around, rejuvenated, empowered, and completely changed by this one day. There have been several high profile success stories, which are monitored on the DC website. The designers had fun too, working with people they respect in a way that is never possible in the normal competitive consultancy environment.
The technology projects were equally successful, with CEO's realising that they had the wrong applications, products and even business models.
At the heart of this project was the belief that design works by making companies customer focused and see themselves through their customers eyes, sometimes for the first time. Over 1,000 companies have now taken part in the scheme and I am still lucky enough to get invited back to do the occasional immersion. There are lite versions of the scheme now, but go for the Big Bang, it'll be a day your business will never forget and it makes a hell of a difference.

In 2011 UK Minister for Science and Universities David Willets announced a multi million pound support for Designing Demand with special attention to technology businesses.

dffnlogo.jpg.w180h66Design For Future Needs was a European Union (EU) funded research project I led whilst at the Design Council.
The project examined how design could play a role in Government policy or business strategy through "Foresight".
Foresight is about bringing together a number of thought leaders around a given subject and have them consider future scenarios of social or technology issues in order to identify future activities that government policy, or business strategy, will need to anticipate.
UK examples of Foresight include projects as diverse as environmental sustainability, the ageing population, nano-technology and flooding. Several of the more socially orientated projects have drawn responses from the design world, especially with the Inclusive (or Universal, if you are in the US) design and environmental sustainability.
The design interest came through the role of design in creating scenarios for the future. This is easily seen in the example of car manufacturers who present concept cars at motor shows to show what they are developing and get industry and public reaction. But the methods to model and envision what is not yet real is at the heart of the design process, and can communicate and engage with society in a way a long academic written report may not.
The project was fascinating and helped me develop an understanding of what those base elements of design activity are, which is something I have been developing ever since, through my presentations and writings.
Working with the EU and partner organisations was challenging and at times frustrating. It made me realise that we do not always share even the most basic definitions of design and that cultural differences run deep. However, the project was a success and the final report is here as a .pdf download. I remember writing the report myself but I think Hugh Aldersley Williams was responsible for cleaning up and writing the final report as published here. There used to be a web site at the Design Council but the links from Google no longer work. The final report can be found here: