Duffy & Partners Featured In Showroom Magazine

It’s Design’s Time.
Eric Block, Managing Partner, Duffy & Partners/USA

It’s the design economy.  Why?

It’s no longer the information age, a time when people believed information was scarce and access to it was valuable. That’s not an issue when millions of terabytes of information is at your fingertips with an internet search engine.  

We’ve also passed through the knowledge economy.  At a time where collective IQ and intimate knowledge of virtually any subject is on your screen via Wikipedia; gaining and sharing knowledge is also becoming a commodity.

Studies in the U.S. show more than half of the population will do what ever they can to avoid being marketed to.  Not surprisingly, YouTube users watch the least amount of regular television. People are editing; selecting only what interests them and repurposing it in infinite configurations as unique as the individual herself.  That’s design.

So that means anyone involved in a profession that’s about telling a story—like advertising—is essentially Tyrannosaur Rex coming face to face with a meteoric event. People don’t want to hear what you have to say, no matter how cleverly you say it or how slickly produced your story is.  My advice to clients:  put your money into the design of your product, not into elaborate stories about it no one wants to hear.

We have landed hard on our backsides in a design economy. When the sheer amount of information is overwhelming and knowledge commoditized, value is about what you do with it.  People—yes, it is time to stop calling them consumers—are overwhelmed with choice and they are in control.  It's why Time magazine made “You” – the person of the year.

People want to see how companies are going to help them design their lives just the way they want them.  It’s why the most successful retailer in the United States—Target—has reinvented themselves.  They have gone from dusty discounter to a spectacular growth engine by hitching their wagon to people’s interest in design—every day in every aspect of their lives.  All under the populist mantra “Design for All”.

Go down the list.  Apple.  BMW.  Oxo.  Samsung.  The hottest brands around the world have put design at the forefront.  Good design influences everything they do.  The form, function and aesthetic of the product.  The artful nature of their packaging. The elegant way they stand apart in the retail environment.

Many say this democratization of design erodes the exclusiveness of the craft and means the entree of the lowest common denominator design.  We think that’s pure insecurity.

Take golf.  We doubt that Tiger Woods or Ernie Els shake in their spiked shoes when yet another weekend hacker is inspired to pick up a golf club.  Quite the contrary, the more golfers, the more fans to thrill, the more endorsed products to sell. And better appreciation of the sport and the true talent of its stars.

Same for cooking.  As more people equip their homes with restaurant quality ranges and high-end cookware, we doubt Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay worry they will lose their livelihoods to a new legion of weekend paella chefs.  The more people who appreciate fine dining, the more interest in the true masters of the kitchen.

Same for design.  We don’t need to worry about people who desire to select their own wallpaper or design their own website eroding the quality of the design field.  Far from it.  With a greater appreciation of design and how it can make people’s lives that much more interesting and fulfilling, designers and the companies that use them to improve their products, will only rise in cultural currency.  

Design can make things clearer.  Simpler.  Easier.  Personal.  All things people want today.

Embrace the design economy.  It’s here to stay.   

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