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The Design Authority means business…

Human beings are not meant to be alone, they are meant to converse, collaborate and conceive ideas. We will always be stronger collectively, even if it is not always apparent what that togetherness turns out to be.

The idea behind The Design Authority (DA) is to bring together the world’s most respected design leaders, especially timely now the position of a Chief Design Officer on a company’s board is becoming as important as the CEO’s in determining agendas and strategies.

The Design Authority has an open format to discuss ideas, test their validity, try out responses and then go back into the office to try them out… and to help seasoned creative professionals remember why they started doing this in the first place.”

Gwen Haberman, Senior Designer & Brand Manager | HSBC Private Bank

The DA arranged its first design event in London at the end of 2013 and this was so successful that there will be three further events in 2014, coming after a commensurately fruitful affair in San Francisco this Spring. These get-togethers will take place in Milan, Shanghai and Milan.

There are already around 70 DA global Advocates representing some of the biggest brands in the world. They are highly respected thought leaders in the design industry with the experience and knowledge to provide exceptional insight into the impact design can have on business.

This is a place to discuss new thoughts and share ideas, as well as understand how other commercial organisations are using design to drive their business, and to make design relevant to business. The Design Authority doesn’t need a missions statement; that’s so last century, no one has mission statements any more.”

Katherine Church, Solution Director - Digital Lead Capita Group Sales

Aside from formal events, the first invitation-only and informal DA dinner took place in London this week. Invited guests from Vodafone, Tesco, IBM, HSBC, Capita, Nokia and others met over dinner in a West End restaurant to discuss the challenges and opportunities for design.

The wider narrative was how the DA can lobby business as well as the crucial sector of education and academia to bring design into the centre of a wider debate about the importance of design in the way we live and the objects we choose to buy and use.

The challenges and opportunities of design are manifold. Historically, it has always been difficult for design companies to be given a complete and open brief and now it is being included in the right conversations at the right time. Many agreed that design input should be viewed as essential at the beginning of the process.

The Design Authority is a voice to promote and to guide design’s positive potential. It means we can have collective thinking in design with a community of like-minded people in the same kind of roles… and promote design with a group that actually practises design.”

Neil Churcher, Design Leader, Head of Design, Orange Design and Usability

There was general consensus that the DA should represent a lobby group that, even though its Advocates worked in competing industries, was collaborative and open source about the industry. Trust was a word used several times during the evening and creating an environment where the design process can be demystified and explained to non-creative decision-makers was paramount.

The open format of the DA was widely viewed as its biggest asset and one that was immutable. Some around the table were on a learning brief, looking to take new ideas back to their offices and see how they worked… others saw such an informal gathering as the perfect place to reconnect, revive and rejuvenate.

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The idea of a DA mission statement was discussed at length. While some saw the need for such a statement old-fashioned and ‘so last century’, others were more effusive, one suggestion being ‘the mission of the DA is to act as a catalyst for the evolution of the creative industry into its most relevant path for society’.

The Design Authority means sharing of design knowledge between industries, learning what is working in different companies and how we can learn from that.

There is disruption everywhere in media and entertainment, retail, connected products, healthcare, communications. We need to challenge long standing business assumptions and move the design conversation into the mainstream.”

Richard Lewis, Head of UX, International Online, Tesco Group Digital Product

Like all collectives, its mission builds on the shoulders of giants that preceded it. In six months, the DA has grown from its first London event to a collaborative forum of some of the smartest minds in design. Whether it’s a design event in Milan or an informal dinner in London, this collective of humans means business.


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