Welcome to the inaugural edition of Business by Design, Fortune’s occasional newsletter on the transformative power of design in business.
Phil Gilbert recalls vividly the moment he discovered the power of design to impact business.
This was years before Gilbert began leading a design transformation inside IBM. He was trying to figure out how to please customers and boost the growth of his first software startup. “If there’s a business problem that has fascinated me my entire career, it’s the notion of scale,” says Gilbert. “How do you scale excellence? How do you scale quality?” His company was partnering with Microsoft at the time and he ended up working with some of the software giant’s formally trained designers.
It was a revelation. “My head exploded,” says Gilbert, who is today IBM’s general manager of design. “I realized, ‘Wait a second. There’s actually a system with academic and historical underpinnings that can scale this notion of user-centered development. I didn’t know that. I was naïve. Turned out they were called designers, right?”
Ever since then, says Gilbert, “I’ve been pursuing this notion of the magic in any product or service is how it’s experienced by the end user.”
In recent years, the broader business world has experienced a similar epiphany about the power of design to enrich products and experiences, connect with customers, and help companies accelerate growth. Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies are hiring and empowering chief design officers, and companies like IBM are training managers to think more like designers.
Design, in short, matters more than ever to business.
That is why Fortune has partnered with our colleagues at Wallpaper* and Time to create Brainstorm Design, a new conference dedicated to the idea that companies must embrace design as an essential component of their strategy. Hosted in Singapore, March 6 through 8, with support from Singapore’s Economic Development Board, Brainstorm Design’s mission is to gather the design world’s leading voices and to provide a forum for sharing their best ideas.
By registering for Brainstorm Design, you’ve agreed to be a part of that conversation. We can’t wait to see you in Singapore this Tuesday to kick things off. Our program is packed with world-class designers, architects, branding pros, artificial intelligence experts, and design executives like Gilbert, who will be joining me on stage to talk about his playbook for design at IBM. (Check out the full agenda here.)
And to keep the conversation going throughout the year, we’ve created this “Business by Design” newsletter. You can expect to receive a recap of Brainstorm Design after the conference ends, as well as periodic updates on our coverage going forward. If you have feedback, we’d love to hear it!
Below you’ll find links to recent stories from Wallpaper*, Time, and Fortune—including Fortune’s list of 25 companies that get design right—among others. One thing they have in common: They share our belief that business is always better by design.
Designing the News
How do you unpack stories in an engaging way and still build a credible and comprehensive news brand? A look at how three media companies are approaching design in print and on screen. Monocle
How production designer Hannah Beachler brought the fictional land of Wakanda to life in the hit film Black Panther. Variety
Seven Post-It Army
You might be surprised to learn that the world’s largest design team is housed at IBM, which is in full embrace of design thinking as it tries to steer itself into a new era. Fortune
People are relying more on their home environments to boost their moods and overall sense of well-being. Here’s how the self-care craze has seeped into home design. Seattle Times
The best design exhibitions to see in March from around the globe, from furniture in Paris to interiors in New York to sculpture in London. Wallpaper
What does “design” mean, exactly? Is it classical, commercial, computational, something else? The meaning of design is up for debate, writes Brainstorm Design co-chair Clay Chandler—and that’s a good thing. Time
Disrupt (or Be Disrupted)
Which companies are doing design right? A list of 25 organizations—from Apple to Zalando—in a range of industries that have the right stuff. Fortune
To Design, First Dog-food
In conversation with Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia, who explains how his sharing-economy company “dog-foods” to better understand its customers. Fortune
Making sustainability a de facto policy for U.S. cities would be a cost-effective design solution that could save millions, and even billions, of dollars, according to a new study. Curbed
Its peerless products helped it become the world’s most valuable company. Has Apple lost its design mojo in the post-Steve Jobs era? No—not according to those who remember the hits and the misses. Fortune