In conversation: Anne Pascual, design director of IDEO, about design, innovation and digitalisation

AnnePascual_bearbeitet1. How can design strengthen companies’ innovative abilities in times of fast-paced digitalisation?

Currently, companies are facing big changes – technology’s growing importance and the changing needs of customers require new skills: design helps companies and users to identify a range of new opportunities and how these can transfer into new products, services, brands and business models. Therefore, it is important to start by asking the right questions and to include the users from the very beginning in the design process. Moreover, it is essential to take on the user’s perspective in order to create new ideas, to then test them on the market and to further develop them. Often, such an approach requires a radical rethinking: traditional ways of working as well as organisational structures need to be turned upside down and need to leave space for experimenting and trying out different things.

2. What does “digital design” mean to you?

Digital design goes beyond the design of user interfaces: digital technologies do not only open up new channels for companies to communicate with users, but also changes the relationship between users and their relationships towards brands. Direct dialogues and feedback and participation in value chains create opportunities for new models and business areas, which are currently debated, for example under the heading of “sharing economy”.

Digital design also means, that scalable solutions can be developed with much less effort than a few years ago – not only by big, traditional companies. The term “beta version” shows that digital products and services are undergoing a constant development process – they learn and live on the market, functionality and communication are adjusted. They become important tasks for different business units, which go beyond pure marketing, but affect the core of what the company offers to the customer on the market.

3. How should design education prepare the next generations of designers for these new tasks?

As I have already described before, the possibilities, but also the complexity of today’s design tasks are multiplying themselves. During my daily work with our multidisciplinary team I am noticing that the designer’s role is changing: from being the mere designer of a final product towards being a mediator and communicator, who considers the connection between companies and their customers from a new perspective. A designer’s education can help to give him/her the skills to visualise new ideas and models and to continue to learn instead of just arguing.

4. What innovative challenge would you personally like to work on?

Over the next couple of years almost every company will develop into a technology company – I think this will be a very interesting challenge: what organisational structure, tools, products and services does it need, in order to create an added value, no matter whether it is in the healthcare system, education, research and teaching or within financial services? Europe has a great chance to develop innovative models, which are more than mere “copy & paste” from other markets.

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