January 8, 2008
by Daniel Fox

Event: Does Design Really Matter?
Location: Rockwell Group, 12.04.07
Speakers: David Rockwell, AIA — Founder, Rockwell Group; Paula Scher — Principal, Pentagram
Moderator: Linda Tischler — Senior Writer, Fast Company
Organizers: New York Glasshouse

Does Design Matter

Courtesy Glasshouse New York

Some observers feel that businesses are just using ‘design’ as a watchword, not really investing beyond a vague box they’re sure customers want checked. Design is more popular than ever in the business world, but originality is still rare.

The way for businesses to stand out, according to David Rockwell, AIA, founder of the Rockwell Group, is through artistry. “Craft cuts through the tendency for homogenization of design,” he said. Paula Scher, principal at Pentagram, held that clients are much more aware of the importance of design now than in the past; yet, she still has had to work hard to convince some clients of her vision. Linda Tischler, senior writer at Fast Company, recalled talking with a business figure who wished he could dispose of all the design related to his business, and the ensuing costs, if he could get away with it. But all-in-all, the panel felt that companies were moving in the right direction in recognizing the business importance of design businesses.

The Target store, one of the evening’s sponsors, was a popular example, for better or worse. Scher appreciates that Target has done so much to embrace design in individual products, but the look of their stores in general could do more as models of good design.

Glasshouse, a London based salon for entrepreneurs, which this author helped to launch in NY, tackles a different topic each season. These “conversations,” in Glasshouse-speak, track the zeitgeist among entrepreneurial types. Speakers and moderators are culled from the up-and-coming superstars in their fields. At this session, design was on everyone’s lips.


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