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What is the big deal about industrial design?

Professors Philippe Lalande and Daniel Spooner of the University of Montreal’s School of Industrial Design were recently invited to Sudbury by Laurentian University Economics professor David Robinson to share their thoughts on the importance of industrial design.As executive director of the Sudbury and Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) working with suppliers in the most concentrated centre of mining in North America, I couldn’t help but be interested.

Maybe it’s time to consider adding an industrial designer to every company as a key employee?

In the 1950s, IBM CEO Tom Watson made the claim that “good design is good business.”

Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotman School of Management says, “Business people don’t just need to understand designers better – they need to become designers.”

Companies such as Apple and Sony have been successful because of great design. They design both the product form and the system that supports it. Apple even designs the markets that the product will target.

Books like ‘Winning by Design’ and countless magazine articles claim that investment in design enhances competitiveness.

Why? Because products are differentiated in domestic and international markets not so much by the technology that goes into them, but how they employ that technology.

Only recently has design been spotlighted by business leaders and policymakers. Apple’s iPod and other electronics show how design can be a strategic management tool giving businesses an edge in the global marketplace. Businesses, technology clusters and regions now compete on design. “Real value creation now comes from using the designer’s foremost competitive weapon, his imagination,” said Martin.

Industrial design closes the gap between the scientist/inventor who conceives of a device and the salesman who must sell it at a price the market will bear.

The industrial designer traditionally has been labelled as a stylist with a basic insight into mechanics. The modern industrial designer is the link between art and engineering.

According to Wikipedia, “Industrial design is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.”

So, how is industrial design related to what SAMSSA members do?

In Northern Ontario, we have over 500 companies servicing the mining industry. We make trucks, loaders, utility vehicles, drills, pneumatic cylinders and many other products.

Some companies plan mines. We do all these things not only for Northern Ontario, but also for the world market.

So where does design come in? Internationally, we are competing with companies that employ designers and compete on the quality of their designs as much as they compete on the basis of raw technological function.

We need to have designers to make even better products. We need to be recognized as an outstanding design culture. We need design courses offered in our colleges and universities. We need to teach the importance of design in our business schools and management programs so that managers understand it and can use it to compete on the world stage.

SAMSSA is ready to move forward with our multiple partners and institutions to build more design capacity and to become an even more important player in the mining products and services industry.

www.samssa.ca

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About Dick DeStefano

Dick DeStefano is Executive Director of SAMSSA [email protected]

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