e-Types is a strategic brand and design agency that moves companies and organizations forward through identity. Brand leadership is characterized by the clear signals of an organization permeated by a strong sense of identity and purpose. e-Types illuminates corporate ideas. Through brand strategy and graphic design embedded in big ideas, we nurture enthusiasm, increase sales and enhance leadership.
Within the last years e-Types has worked to enhance the competences and expertise within the field of strategic design and innovation, among other things through the establishment of the PhD research project, Conscious Design Practice as a Strategic Tool in collaboration with Silje Kamille Friis. Since 2003 Silje has worked on the creation of new knowledge about design methods and processes in strategic design consultancies, which have made creativity and the generating of ideas one of their core competencies. Part of this has been to systematically uncover contemporary design practice in an international perspective with visits to leading design consultancies and institutions in Europe and the US, among others IDEO in Boston, Bruce Mau Design, Toronto, and Humantific in New York. The project was concluded on May 2nd, when the defense took place and Silje earned her PhD degree.
The project is unique in several ways. Design consultancies seldom invest in research and Silje is the first designer in Denmark to gain the approval and support of the Ministry of Science and acquire the title of Industrial PhD. Her background is in design and she has many years of experience as a project and team leader, from among others LEGO A/S and MIT Media Laboratory in Cambridge, USA.
Professor Hans Siggaard Jensen and Lotte Darsø, Ph.D. at Learning Lab Denmark at the Danish University of Education, have been the academic supervisors of the research project.
The results have not only been of value to the e-Types design practice but has also been shared with everyone interested in strategic design through articles, talks, and workshops.
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Buy the thesis
The industrial PhD thesis is a collaboration between Silje Alberthe Kamille Friis and e-Types under supervision of Learning Lab Denmark. The project is available for purchase by sending an e-mail to email@example.com
The project costs 425 Dkk plus inclusive of shipping and VAT to Denmark (280 Dkk without shipping and VAT). For foreign shipments, we charge 48 USD plus shipping. The price covers print and production expenses. An invoice will be sent along with the thesis.
"Consious Design Practice as a Strategic Tool"
Industrial PhD Silje Alberthe Kamille Friis (PhD)
Sponsoring Company: e-Types A/S
Company supervisor: Søren Skafte Overgaard, Managing Director
Supervisor: Lotte Darsø, Associate Professor, Learning Lab Denmark, The Danish University of Education
Supervisor: Hans Siggaard Jensen, Professor, Head of Department, Learning Lab Denmark, The Danish University of Education
Evaluation committee: Jørgen Rasmussen, Designer MDD, Associate Professor, Head of Institute of Design, School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark , Anders Drejer, Professor at strategy Lab, Aarhus School of Business, John Heskett, Chair Professor at School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
The intent of the PhD project Conscious Design Practice as a Strategic Tool has been to create new knowledge about how designers work, how they think, and how they carry out design activities in strategic design practice, with a particular focus on the design methods and processes. The objectives have been threefold:
- To produce and compare new knowledge about the design methods and processes applied in strategic design work
- To examine the significance of conscious design methods and processes in design work.
- To develop a new level of understanding of how to facilitate strategic designprocesses in teams and organizations.
The research project has been a journey into new territory, which only few have touched before us. First of all, the concept of 'strategic design' is a recent development within the field of design, focusing on the business aspects and strategic thinking necessary to identify opportunities for innovation and new growth. In the face of globalization, strategic design appears to have quite the potential - and initiating a sharing of how strategic design consultancies work could be a way of strengthening collective knowledge building in the field as a whole. Most talk of innovation and how to enhance innovation capabilities happens at 50.000 feet altitude, which makes it even more important to get close to concrete suggestions of how to operationalize innovation activities in daily work processes. Secondly, design practice is not well served in contemporary design literature. Says John Heskett: Quite a few books on this aspect can be described as design hagiology, essentially uncritical forms of promotion for designers and design groups to establish their position in a pantheon of classic work. The products of successful design practice are plentiful in design magazines - but the processes and methods themselves are rarely exposed, which makes this study important and relevant adding to the construction of a bridge between design practices, design research, and design education.
e-Types is one of the first of its kind in the Danish market, merging graphic design with strategic identity and with this research project have dedicated themselves to the exploration of strategic design methods and processes, not only within the boundaries of e-Types, but in an international perspective. e-Types has offered me a daily work space and individuals and teams at e-Types have acted as co-researchers throughout the process of mapping the new territory of strategic design. In addition to literature studies and research in practice at e-Types, 3 international design consultancies have participated as cases - each contributing with valuable suggestions as to how to address the problems and opportunities in the strategic design space. The 3 international cases are Bruce Mau Design, IDEO, and Humantific.
The findings of the 4 cases show that there is no one, way of approaching strategic design work - there are in fact several. There are at least 2 different ways of operating in the strategic design space: the 'scientific' and the 'artful' approach. The 'scientific' design consultancies are working to make designing an explicit activity, documenting methods and processes, whereas the 'artful' design consultancies are reluctant to document the way they work, fearing that they might loose some of the chaotic qualities, which they see as crucial in the creation process. The 'scientific' design consultancies are to a certain degree trying to 'objectify' and make parts of the design process replicable whereas the 'artful' design consultancies cultivate a 'subjective' approach integrating both social and political ambitions in their work.
The new explicit design methods and processes allow the 'scientific' design consultancies to operate at new levels, bringing new services to their clients. In the present study we have identified 3 levels of design objectives: 'Design as Product', 'Design as Process', and 'Design as Transformation'. 'Design as product' refers to the traditional way of thinking about design: as an outcome or solution to a particular problem, whether in the form of physical products, communications, interactions, or experiences. 'Design as process' broadens attention from what is designed to how it is designed. Stakeholders are invited onboard the process, contributing with knowledge and experience and learning from the process. Design processes are explicit and the consultancy devotes effort to rethink and rearrange processes to suit a wide variety of design tasks, acting like facilitators of process. 'Design as transformation' is focusing on the proactive innovation capability of the organization. Advocates of 'design as transformation' emphasize the importance of teaching innovation skills across the organization and build cross-disciplinary leadership.
While the 'scientific' design consultancies are the ones able to expand their services to 'Design as Process' and 'Design as Transformation' - the explicit methods and processes also seem to play a part in the successful expansion of their own businesses, allowing them to grow beyond the typical small-scale design office.
One of the tangible outcomes of the research project is the e-Types Incomplete Method Collection, a collection of approximately 80 methods in the form of a deck of cards. The e-Types Incomplete Method Collection is a way of explaining design visually and verbally by including perspectives from each of the 4 cases. The collection is far from exhaustive - thus the title 'incomplete'. It is the intention for the collection to serve as a springboard for new methods - both at e-Types and any other design practitioners who might want to use and develop the language. By having been designed to evolve with the knowledge and experience of its users, the e-Types Incomplete Method Collection is a manifestation of the continuous development and transformation taking place in the field of design.
The 2nd of May 2007 Silje Kamille Friis defended her thesis to an overwhelmingly positive international evaluation committee. The members of the committee were Professor Anders Drejer, Strategy-Lab at Aarhus Business School, Chair Professor John Heskett, Institute of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Associate Professor Jørgen Rasmussen, Institute of Design, Aarhus School of Architecture. Following a 30 minutes presentation of the research project, each of the three evaluators had 30 minutes to pose additional questions. Hereafter the PhD was approved.
The title and a research project was celebrated at an excellent dinner at e-Types, designed and executed by one of e-Types best chefs, Managing Director Søren Skafte. It was a joyful evening in the company of the evaluation committee, the supervisors Lotte Darsø and Hans Siggaard and folks from e-Types.
In their evaluation of the thesis the evaluation committee said:
" The committee finds that SKF has made a significant contribution to the discourse on Strategic Design. The research is a good example of strongly empirically founded explorative research in an emerging field and the research clearly lives up to international standards for obtaining the PhD degree.
Also the thesis gives an unprecedented insight in the theories behind design thinking from the 1950´ies and forward and the candidate approaches the issue in a very well structured and relevant manner."
"Through the perspective in which the theoretical material has been viewed, SKF is moving design research in the right direction. SKF´s background as a designer is visible in the process were she, instead of allowing herself be tied down by the traditional and rigid research tradition, uses the design methodologies as inspiration to develop her own ideas."
"Basically, it needs to be borne in mind that this is a field that is full of problems, complexities and contradictions. It is something of a theoretical minefield, but SKF has navigated through the difficulties with great skill, shaping her ideas with growing confidence though the process and setting out her case for the approaches adopted with clarity and conviction."
"Continued reading of the thesis strengthens our conviction that it is indeed a very good work on a field that is of expanding importance. There is considerable scope for this material to be developed for publication and teaching purposes and for the research to be fruitfully expanded through post-doctoral work."
Questions or other matters can be addressed to Managing Director, Søren Skafte Overgaard
Related articles by Silje Kamille Friis
DESIGN - MORE THAN A COOL CHAIR The article was written in collaboration with Associate Professor Robert Austin and Erin Sullivan, Harvard Business School.
The article is available at HBS Online.
THE CREATIVE COLLECTIVES "The Creative Collectives", article together with Sune Aagaard, Kontrabande. The magazine Wonderland, #1, November 2005. The article only exists in Danish: "Unge designere og kunstnere arbejder i stadig højere grad i kreative kollektiver og teams og de markerer sig med fælles bedrifter frem for det individuelle talent"
CREATIVITY DEMANDS A HIGH LEVEL OF AWARENESS "Creativity Demands a High Level of Awareness", Interview for Danish Designers magazine Inform, October 2005. "Real creativity adds something new to the world and is closely linked to the ability to embrace complexity - and the guts too move into the unknown" (The interview is in Danish).
SHOW IT AND TELL IT "Show it AND Tell it", article in Quarterly, the Learning Lab Denmark Jounal, # 3, Fall 2005 "The burgeoning field of strategic design is splitting up into an artful and a scientific design approach. Hard, explicit skills give the scientific agencies the upper hand in becoming innovation partners for global business."
THE INNOVATION TOOLBOX "The Innovation Toolbox - a Guide to New Design", article together with Sune Aagaard, Kontrabande. Monday Morning, No. 31, 19. September 2005. "Design agencies are developing new tools and skills in order to match an increased demand in the market - shift from traditional design approach to strategic design - Front runners engage in creative problem solving".
"Design's New Frontier", article in Quarterly, the Learning Lab Denmark Jounal, # 4, winter 2004. "LEADING DESIGN AGENCIES all over the world are changing focus; from merely executing design from briefs, leading agencies now take part in the analysis and identification of the clients' challenges as well as in the development of creative solutions that create new markets. If the agencies aim to compete on this new level, they will have to acquire new competencies and figure out how to manage MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAMWORK."
THE SCHOOL OF HARD SKILLS ON CPH 127 > Article
'Industrial Ph.D. Student creates new knowledge about design methods at the strategic identity and design agency e-Types', Lars Fremerey, Danish Business Research Academy (DEA). Download the article from DEA's home page. www.dea.nu "Handbook in Creativity", Berlingske Tidende, November 12th, 2003