MAIL by NHO delivers news and views tailored to those who share our value of design. Published to a gentle schedule, you’ll only hear from us when we have something of note to share.
We believe design is more than something to be consumed. While aesthetics and form are important, yes – the greater value of design can be found in the way it advances the intentions or purpose of a person, place or thing. Too often dismissed as trivial decoration, design is more than what can be seen – it is the central ingredient of how we experience the world; a valuable intermediary between ourselves and our environment.
The value of design transcends the physical when we examine its impact on our wellbeing, on productivity, connectivity, technology, even diplomacy. From the ergonomics of a well-designed chair, to the efficiency of a factory floor, to advancements in resource management, the best of design seeks to identify and understand a need and respond with a life or experience-enhancing solution. As Bauhaus professor László Maholy-Nagy writes in Vision in Motion, 1947, “Ultimately all problems in design merge into one great problem: ‘design for life.’” He emphasises, therefore, that “designing is not a profession but an attitude.”
This aspirational thinking is the driving focus of design author and critic Alice Rawthorn’s book Design As An Attitude, 2018. She asserts: “In all of its manifold guises, design has always had one elemental role as an agent of change that interprets shifts of any type – social, political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural, ecological, or whatever – to ensure that they will affect us positively, rather than negatively.”
Design, therefore, has the potential to elicit change in our own lives, with the capacity to elevate lived experiences when deployed wisely and sensitively. Musing on the fundamentals of residential design, modernist architect Le Corbusier believed that a house can only be “a machine for living in” if it provides a platform for the necessities of life to be lived.
As leading interior designer Ilse Crawford notes in her 2014 tome A Frame for Life, “Design is essentially a constructed reality. It needs to be built around the life that will be lived within (or with) it. Around real needs and activities”. Championing human-centred design, Crawford asserts “the designer must put human experience at the core of the design process, so that the result is a physical manifestation of human behaviour.”
One could surmise that it is this diversity of influence that undermines a more pervasive appreciation of design. Design is vast and varied, traversing every industry and sector – its social and economic impact beyond quantification and, therefore, easily overlooked.
Despite this, increased inclusivity in design can be seen with varied fields engaging in design thinking and creativity. A renewed focus on the democratisation of design is positioning the field as a powerful force in its own right – extending reach through cultural diplomacy, and dismantling notions of elitism and exclusion.
This is clearly demonstrated in McKinsey’s 2018 research report ‘The Business Value of Design’. The fact such a report was commissioned evidences the growing value of design, while the report itself unpacks exactly how good design can be harnessed as a valuable business asset in any sector. The report revealed that best design performers increased revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts, while top quartile companies commonly made user-centric design a shared and integrated responsibility – not a siloed function.
At NHO, we value design for its impact on life – but also for its innate business potential. Our belief in the holistic value of design is foundational; it drives our vision for “elevating the value of design through brand strategy and marketing”. Emboldened by this self-appointed task, we strive to work with those who share in this value – harnessing its power and leveraging it as a tool and a differentiator to propel our clients forward.
Further reading – NHO ‘The Value of Design’ Essay Series: Leading design writers, commentators and thinkers are invited to contribute an individual perspective – accepting or challenging the notion that design does or should embody greater “value” by drawing on personal experience, expertise and knowledge. Contributors are encouraged to explore design’s influence and application in domestic and commercial settings, across history, culture, politics, and its power to impact all aspects of life from small gestures of the everyday, to the future and sustainability of our planet.