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Why designing the future of business requires embracing radical transformation

April 12, 2022, 8:50 PM UTC

My introduction to reporting out this newsletter was a conversation with Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell. He said a lot of interesting things on that call, but the general through line all boiled down to the notion that, in his estimation, as the business world continues to move at a neck-breaking clip and every company is in so many ways a tech company, business leaders and CEOs will need to be designers.

“I have this view that the world moves in marginal gains and a few bold moves,” he said. “That’s the way a company has to work. That’s how CEOs should be and leadership teams should be. They should be unafraid to change.”

Nearly every last CDO, CEO, designer, engineer or product lead I’ve interviewed since that call has shared a story about the aspects of discovery and transformation that come along with any design process. The stories weave together themes of empathy, curiosity, humility, humanity, and discipline. The details might come in the form of building out new features on an app, a website redesign, a new product line launch, leveraging technology to learn more about a customer, using design to increase access for marginalized populations, an effort to re-build or transform culture, and so much more.

Folks like Darrell have increasingly convinced me (and hopefully some of you, too) that design is not a singular silo within a greater org chart. It is not color, finish, or aesthetics. It is the fabric of innovation and strategy at any organization trying to move the needle for its customers and its sphere of influence in the world.

As succinctly defined by former president at Rhode Island School of Design Roseanne Somerson when I spoke to her for my first edition of Business by Design, “[Design] is the rigorous practice of analysis, strategy and innovation that often reframes problems to create new solutions. Think about something that works well, and then think about something that doesn’t work well. You’re beginning to think about a design process.” 

Somerson’s sentiment is so simple, yet offers the possibility of infinite complexity and discussion.

That’s why Fortune developed Brainstorm Design, an event that pulls together thinkers, creators, business leaders, and designers from a wide range of industries to explore how design thinking and practice can be challenged and advanced. This year, participants include Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell and design-minded leaders and executives from Netflix, Walmart, Google, Stripe, Etsy, Chase, Uber, Dropbox, IBM, Ford, Salesforce, Pentagram, and more. The two-day event will involve round table discussions, one-on-one and panel interviews, and immersive experiences at the Adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm and the Newlab headquarters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard May 23 and 24.

You can learn more about the event, or apply to attend here.This year’s theme, “Embracing Radical Transformation” will discuss the ways in which the business and design communities can meet the moment after two years, which have been an extraordinary test of institutional and personal adaptation and resilience. Join us for the opportunity to connect, share ideas, and forge new partnerships with the understanding that we can all participate in the ways business and design influence and inform one another. 

Nicole Gull McElroy

nicolegull@gmail.com

NEWS IN DESIGN

Visa’s first innovation lab in Africa

The payments company has just added Kenya to its list of global innovation studios. Visa is leveraging the fast-growing, tech-savvy population in Sub-Saharan Africa to help build tech solutions for the region in partnership with developers and clients alike. Visa has previously partnered with Nigerian fintech company Paga to design mobile money products for the African market.

 

A working design for all

A new book released March 24 titled New Industrial Urbanism: Designing Places for Production, explores how cities can incorporate spaces for manufacturing and production as they grow and evolve. The book calls for companies to reconsider how they design the spaces they occupy in cities, reconnecting people, places, and production through within the contexts of urban design and sustainability. It was written by Tali Hatuka, Professor of Urban Planning and the head of the Laboratory of Contemporary Urban Design at Tel Aviv University, and Eran-Ben Joseph, Class of 1922 Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the former head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

No-code app Thunkable secures $30 million

Born at Google and MIT, Thunkable is the latest buzzworthy startup to gain traction in the no-code software-building space. The company, which allows users to build mobile apps without writing a single line of code, announced $30 million in series B funding to build out a marketplace for creator communities, encouraging its users to build on their skills. The round was led by Owl Ventures, the largest edtech focused venture firm in the world. Thunkable has more than 3 million users, including teams at 40% of Fortune 500 companies.

This is the web version of Business By Design, a biweekly newsletter exploring design’s transformative influence on industry and enterprise. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.