Despite the appearance, current trends in the management world include more elements than just social media. Social media pervade any debate, and I myself end up talking about it and working with it every day. No doubt that in both the present and future economy they will act upon any entrepreneurial adventure to make it live, sink or travel far beyond initial expectations. But there are other forces at stake in today’s management, the influence of which is endowed with virtues and opportunities.

I’m talking about design. Design is at the core of the strategy I described in relation to the creative Barcelona. Barcelona has reshaped a whole district to turn it into an innovation hub, and by doing so, it has performed all the potential virtues of design. The new district is functional but also livable, enjoyable, unique…

Design is commonly seen as primarily superficial. Most people relate it to fashion: fun, potentially inspiring, but superficial. However, design goes far beyond that, and fashion itself is an example of it. Ask Custo or other current textile designers where their particular designs come from, or what they are intended for, and they’ll most definitely refer to a way of thinking, living, communicating, working, etc. This is what design is about.

We all may know it in this form, but let me insist on the fact that design is not merely the shape a product takes or the layout of an advertisement. It starts at a deeper stage. It is the spirit that pervades a company, a place, a group of people, etc. Design is how you look but also how you work, how you socialise, but also how you think. Design shapes both a product and all the processes involved in its creation.

That is, at least, how design is understood, studied and supported in the BCD (Barcelona Center for Design). In late 2009 this center for the promotion of design conducted a survey and its outcomes were clear:

  • Nine in every ten companies included design in its corporate strategy,
  • A correlation was found between turnover and the inclusion of design in corporate strategy,
  • 61% said it improved profit, 59% said it improved productivity, 68% said it opened up new markets for their company, 84% said it decisively supported their companies’ reputation, and
  • More than half of the surveyed companies had designers among their staff, with 45% hiring external design services as well.

The BCD adopted a satellite role for the BEDA (Bureau of European Design Associations) for design and business related issues in Barcelona. In that role, and apart from the aforementioned research, it puts forward relevant data from other organisations such as the ‘Value of Design Factfinder’ issued by the UK Design Council in 2007. Having studies 1500 companies, they found that for every 100 pounds invested in design, turnover grew by 225 pounds. The value of design is increasingly prized, and it’s not by chance. As the EU needs to make its economy more valuable and design is a key response to that. Hence the result of a public research carried out in the EU in 2009: 91% deemed design to be a decisive element for the future of European competitiveness.

By nature, design is linked to innovation. That is why Barcelona wants to build on it. That regional strength is becoming a competitive advantage and the proof for that is the newly born cluster of design inside the urban district for innovation (22@). The BDIC (Barcelona Design Innovation Cluster, ) matches offer with demand and spreads the international visibility of Barcelona as a centre of design.

The BDIC, for instance, uses design to improve the healthcare system. It addresses the medical product but also healthcare services in an effort to advance the efficacy of treatments, of medical centres and to help bring a warmer human touch to the whole healthcare structure.

In addition, it also pursues a wider goal that has to do with designing the entire city. Mobility, urbanism, urban services for both locals and tourists, accessibility and sustainability… Everything in the public agora is to be designed according to its smartest performance, thus becoming a distinctive element inside a city that improves the quality of its people’s everyday lives.

The value of design in management is deeper than what a quick glance can reveal. This is especially obvious in the third area covered by the BDIC: the integration of product design, service design and the buying experience in order to provide brands with a better profile in certain sectors such as retail.

It also works with public transportation, which means working in terms of functionality but from the passenger’s experience standpoint as well.

There is more about this at, with telling stories about specific companies which started as a small venture and are becoming international points of reference within their industry. But that’s enough for now. I’ll tell you more about design in Barcelona and in Europe in coming posts.

Thanks and speak soon,