Leadership | Diversity | Inclusion

Government leadership needed on design

Design is an enabler of innovation and the notion of design-led innovation is something we should start talking about, Good Design Australia CEO, Dr Brandon Gien, told a CEDA audience in Adelaide.

“We hear a hell of a lot of talk around innovation, unfortunately not as much as we did when Malcolm Turnbull was our PM, the politicians have almost gone silent,” Dr Gien said.
“The problem I have with innovation is you can’t talk about it in isolation of design.
“Design is the connector, it’s the enabler, it actually turns that great idea into a tangible product through a really considered set of processes.
“Australian designers are some of the best in the world, we punch way above our weight, we develop products that are truly exportable to the rest of the world and we’ve done it with very little support.

“There does not exist within government any department that supports design and I think that’s a real problem.

“I personally would love to see a Minister for Design, I think that’s where we need to be, we’ve had many Ministers for Innovation and Ministers for Industry but where is the Minister for Design that can actually help us push this debate forward?”
Dr Gien said there is growing evidence that demonstrates the economic impact of design.
“The Design Management Institute out of Boston in the US conducted a study almost 10 years ago. They tracked 150 companies listed on the Financial Times Stock Exchange that they recognised as users of design,” he said.
“They found those companies outperformed, over a 10-year period, those that didn’t use design by 200 per cent.
“This was a piece of ground-breaking research.
“More recently, McKinsey & Company released a bit of research where they tracked 300 publicly listed companies over a five-year period. They collected more than two million pieces of financial data and recorded more than 100,000 design actions - which then formed the McKinsey Design Index (MDI).
“This identified companies that used design and for the first time linked it to their financial performance across countries and multiple industry sectors.
“They found that companies with high MDI scores increased their revenues by 32 per cent and total return to shareholders by 56 per cent over a five-year period.
“It’s presenting the evidence in a way that is almost undebatable. And I think that’s probably where the design industry fails. We fail to speak the language of business to communicate just how valuable this is.”
Dr Gien said Australia’s design labour force is small, but punching above its weight in terms of producing original design IP.
“However, we lag our international peers in the rate of which our design labour force is growing,” he said.
“In effect, we’re producing more IP with a smaller number of people, so our actual design industry isn’t growing as fast as the number of IP generation that we’re contributing to.
“That’s not a good thing if we look at countries such as Sweden and Denmark, which are to no surprise, identified as strengthening their design economies.

“We risk falling even further behind, as less original IP is generated here in Australia which I think is a big problem.”

Dr Gien said to become a nation sustainable beyond its resources boom, Australia needs to develop new and sophisticated high-value products and services that are truly exportable.

“Design is a way that will allow us to achieve that,” he said.
Woods Bagot Principal, Rosina Di Maria also spoke at the event and said design is a powerful tool to create new economies.
“When Ministers are sitting together and nobody is considering the impact of what it feels like, looks like, could be, I think we’re failing at that primary point,” she said.
“We need somebody in the room to be the advocate, to have the voice at the table, to be the person who offers a different lens in problem solving or opportunity making.
“That’s where governments are letting down our society. It’s their role to ensure that the value of design has a share price, it has a value.
“They are producing roads and cities and buildings, and they only bring design into the conversation if they can afford it.
“They should be raising a city to believe that quality of environment has impact on all levels.
“Until members of society believe that good design in its total impact leads to better societies, then we will be struggling to teach people the value of that. Education awareness is a big part of that.”
Fusion Capital Director, Christian Reynolds, said the role of government is to create the policy to support design.
“The challenge that all good design and engineering organisations have is the bleeding edge R&D or the cost of innovation,” he said.
“Unless there is a policy and a landmark position of where you want to be, the business can never really invest in taking you to that place and giving you that option.
“I don’t think its government’s job to shape the solution because there’s much more creative people out there who are being paid to give the solution, but it is their job to provide the landmark about where they want to be.”