Title: Profit by design / a report on the 1966 international design congress
Pages: 14 - 29
Text: Profit by design/a report on the 1966 international design congress
The 1966 International Design Congress, held at the Royal Garden Hotel during October, was the fourth organised by the Council of Industrial Design during the past 15 years. In 1951, prominent industrialists from many countries met to consider design policy as a responsibility of top management. In 1956 this theme was developed and the congress considered the management of design and the integration of the designer into the industrial team. The 1961 congress examined the problems facing large organisations seeking an enlightened design policy for corporate buying.
This year's congress took the theme of Profit by Design, and not surprisingly many of the arguments which had emerged in previous years were again debated in the light of current developments in British industry. There were three aspects of the main subject - Imlplications for Design of Technological innovation, The industrial Designer's Role in Product Development, and Design and Marketing-which were discussed simultaneously by three groups, the first concerned with capital goods, the second with light engineering and domestic appliances, and the third with consumer goods and services.
Inevitably, however, a number of common themes came out of the 27 papers, the speeches and discussion periods, which cut right across the organisational structure of the congress. In this report some of the more important of these themes have been picked out to show the areas of agreement or the occasional conflicts which arose. Some of the case histories presented by the speakers have also been summarised to show the
wide ranging influence of design on the profitability of industry.
Investment in design
The keynote for the later discussions was set by Lord Brown, Minister of State, Board of Trade, when the entire congress of some 370 top management delegates met in the opening session under the chairmanship of Sir Duncan Oppenheim, chairman of the Col D. As mi nister with special responsibility for exports, Lord Brown welcomed the theme of Profit by Design which, he said, was extremely well chosen:
"It carries the implication that product design is in the forefront of the business battle. It certainly must be kept in the forefront of Britain's battle for exports."
Any manufacturing business, he argued, could be simply summarised as a process of design, manufacture and sales. "The more explicitly (the manufacturer) can think of these three functions separately, the more likely he will be to give them appropriately balanced attention, and appropriate investment of resources." One of the major problems in Britain is that there is still too little investment in design in relation to investment in production and selling:
"Unless the drive to decrease the manhour content of the cost of production goes hand in hand with increasing attention to design, then we shall fail in our endeavour to right our balance of payments by increasing exports. We need in Britain to achieve, and to maintain in the future, a considerably higher rate of investment in better manufacturing methods. But we must not overlook
the fact that many forward-looking companies have demonstrated time and again that a given volume of money invested in the design and development of their products can bring about larger reductions in final cost than an investment of the same sum in manufacturing equipment."
Lord Brown emphasised the need to give realistic targets to the design department, and criticised the tendency in industry to think that the 'boffins' in the research and development departments "must be left to work in their own weird way in the hope that a by-product of their efforts will prove of use to the company.... We must clearly say to such departments, 'You carry the responsibility of designing the current and future products of this company; your task is to see that they are well designed, that they can be manufactured at a price which will enable them to be sold, and that they are what the market requires'. We must get our designers out of the back-room into the battleline."
Many of these points were so closely reiterated by Hulme Chadwick, president, Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, the second speaker in the opening session, that he chidingly accused Lord Brown of stealing his speech. He made the important point that in the world of business the designer must be as much a business man as the client who employs him.
When the congress split into its three groups for a day and a half of working sessions, it was hoped that speakers from the floor would contribute as much to the exploration of the main subjects as those on the platforms. This hope was more than adequately fulfilled, and in the event the
discussion periods not only introduced new themes of major importance but provided the congress with valuable signposts for the future.
The designer's job
Lord Brown, Minister of State, Board of Trade, main speaker in the opening session
As usual in design conferences there was a good deal of discussion about the particular contribution that the industrial designer has to make in industry. Indeed, the industrial design activity is still insufficiently established, it seems, to require constant redefinition and explanation.
Neil Wates, director, Wates Ltd. put it most succinctly, at least as far as the building industry is concerned:
"On the whole, my definition is - a man who designs an article in the full knowledge of how it is going to be used and how it is going to be manufactured, and of the economics of both."
Eliot Noyes, Eliot Noyes and Associates, American architects and industrial design consultants, set out three basic functions of design in industry:
"First, perhaps, it is the means of expressing the character of the company to the outside world much as a man expresses himself in his house, his dress and his speech. This expression will not occur automatically.
"Second, design is a means by which companies that make products may develop the complete design of those products in ways to serve their customers as well as possible and thereby to increase sales. This cannot be done by tricks of styling to qualify as design in the sense that I mean it. The processes of sound industrial design touch the phases of product planning, ergonomics, engineering, economics, manufacturing, aesthetics and marketing, and so must be an integral part of a company's product development processes.
"Finally, the consultant must himself be a significantly good architect or designer and, in addition to this, he must be some combination of designer, philosopher, historian, educator, lecturer and business man. He must be able to establish design standards, give direction and provide general understanding and attitudes about design at many company levels."
Strangely enough, some of the best definitions did not come from designers themselves but from industrialists like Basil de Ferranti, managing director, International Computors and Tabulators Ltd. who was able, at least in his written paper, to put design into the broad context of social and technological change:
"The job, surely, of the industrial designer is to ensure that the products developed by the engineer are in harmony with the society and human environment of the period in which they are employed.
"At the present time the rate at which the store of scientific knowledge is being expanded is rapid and tending to accelerate.... The aim of the industrial designer must therefore be to ensure that the machine fulfils the task of being the agreeable slave of human society and does not become the Juggernaut relegating man to an inferior status."
This concept was echoed by Sir Leslie Rowan, deputy chairman and managing director, Vickers Ltd:
"Individual products, even if they fulfil their own basic design criteria, are not sufficient in themselves. Design in the capital sector must also be concerned with the overall environment into which such products have to fit. Much of the external world in which we spend our lives has come about through the utilisation of human knowledge and skills. Design, dealing more with systems than products, acts as the link between such knowledge and the final environment."
The French consultant, Henri Vienot, director general, Technes, argued against the outdated 'form follows function' theory:
"If this were so, our working party's efforts would be in vain, since engineers and technicians would, as in the past, remain solely responsible for the designs of industrial equipment as well as consumer goods. If the new discipline of industrial design is to take on, and influence, the creation of new plant, it must be accepted that entirely satisfactory results cannot be obtained by considering only the functional and technical factors."
Valuable as these broad definitions are, there is a clear need to be more particular when the needs of individual industries are being considered. C. H. Flurscheim, director of engineering, Power Group, Associated Electrical Industries Ltd. explained how the design function can vary:
"In products such as cut glass, ceramics or fabrics the design function is basically aesthetic. The industrial designer or artist can execute the complete design. Furniture adds to these techniques that of ergonomics, and with the introduction of glass fibre and steel as structural materials, modern furniture enters the fringe of engineering. But the industrial designer can still retain virtual control of all stages of the design process. ''
"Moving on to engineering based domestic appliances, the technical content gradually increases. Good design now embraces not only style and ergonomics but also design for low cost, reliability and ease of maintenance. The overall design responsibility for the simpler devices may still rest with the industrial designer, but his influence is eroded as the technical complication is increased. He ceases to be in sole control, and requires the support of increasing numbers of engineering specialists, until at some stage engineering is predominant, and the industrial designer then becomes a consultant to the engineering team."
Significantly enough, these statements were mostly by men who, in one way or another, are involved with the engineering industries, where industrial design is comparatively new among all the other skills which these industries employ. Perhaps it is understandable therefore that there should be more concern in these industries to define the role which the industrial designer has to fulfil. It fell, however, to a representative of the consumer goods industries to sum up the meaning of design to all - Hugh De Pree, president, Herman Miller Inc (USA):
"In designing, it is people whose needs must be solved. That is the principal objective."
Managing the design process
Having decided what design is, the next stage seemed to be to find out how best to fit it into the whole production and marketing complex. This is a process nowadays understood es 'design management'.
Since one of the speakers is a professional design manager it is, perhaps, to him we should turn first. Richard Stevens talked about the sort of questions he has to ask as industrial design manager at Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd:
"With a consumer orientated field of operations, is the design manager going to go along completely with marketing, accepting sales reports and market research figures at their face value ? In which case he will advocate a design policy aimed to
achieve maximum immediate sales impact with a regular updating of products. Or will his policy be to aim at a long term growth of sales through the influence of designs planned to anticipate the customers needs and to establish trends ? Either approach is valid and a designer can do an honest job accepting one or the other."
Later he went on to refer to methods of organisation:
"It is as well in a large organisation to use existing procedures and practice as far as possible; thus the establishment of a special industrial design committee, which may seem a reasonable first step, may not be justified if the existing committee structure allows industrial design matters to be included quite naturally in the agenda.
Stevens had gone on to refer to the advantages of employing consultants -the ability to select the right man for a particular job, the advantage of being able to choose "a class of talent that would command prohibitive salaries if employed", and the savings on overheads in not running a fully equipped design department.
Dr Traugott Malzan, head of the information department, Braun AG (West Germany), had different views, however:
"To develop so close a relationship it was essential to have our own design team. Today almost all Braun products are developed and designed with little or no outside help."
At AEI, Flurscheim combines both approaches:
"One of the systems with which my company is experimenting is to maintain a three tier level of industrial design consultancy. The head of our industrial design department has senior external consulting advice on which to call, and junior designers forming part of his department.... By this means the industrial design activity can be fully integrated with the engineering team".
William L. Mather, chairman, Mather & Platt Ltd. described the set-up in his own company, which makes a variety of engineering equipment:
"To assist with the design of our entire range of products we have our own industrial design team, five men and one girl. They have a small design office and workshop and they have two main functions; consultancy and training. In addition, we have an arrangement with an outside firm of well known industrial designers to pay us quarterly visits when they examine and
advise on projects which our own industrial design team have in hand.
"The various Mather & Platt product groups, or departments as we call them, do not have to make use of the industrial design section, but in practice virtually no design is started without the industrial design section being called in to advise, and the time they give to the project is charged to the department concerned."
The vital importance of relating the output of new designs to the productive capacity of the factory was emphasised by Lord Queensberry, professor of ceramics and industrial glass, Royal College of Art. He was referring to his work for W. R. Midwinter Ltd:
"If we are to maintain our lead in the direction of modern design in the English pottery industry we must spend a great deal of time on development. I do not think that we have been as provident as we should be. Having a great success on our hands, everybody has been concerned with production. This is a splendid situation but a situation that can be changed very rapidly indeed. In order to cope with the demand for our products we bought another factory. This meant that the production capacity went almost overnight from 20,000 to 30,000 dozen pieces a week.
In a very short time it was realised that the amount of extra production that was needed to satisfy our customers was not in the order of 50 per cent. Now the situation is that we desperately need new designs and we will bring them out next year. We are all determined that from now on design development will continue at a reasonably intense pace."
Brian Bonfield, until recently managing director, British Domestic Appliances Ltd. had some clear cut advice for managing directors on how they should treat their designers:
"The worst thing you can do is to tinker with his designs. Having given the industrial designer his product objective, the managing director must give the designer his head, even though you know he is leading you over the cliff. But this is very hair-raising, and a lot of people do not do it".
But designers have a habit of continually changing and modifying their designs, and "there comes a point when the managing director must say that he has run out of time, money and patience and that the design must be frozen. This applies to both engineering I and industrial designers."
1 Hulme Chadwick, president, Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, second speaker in the opening session.
Speakers In session 1 of the congress on The Implications for Design of Technological Innovation:
2 Francis Penny, deputy director, National Engineering Laboratory.
3 Dr Barnes Wallis, chief of aeronautical research and development, British Aircraft Corporation (Operating) Ltd.
4 E. D. Mairs, vice-president, Aluminium Co of America.
5 Basil De Ferranti, managing director, International Computers and Tabulators Ltd.
6 Alexander Moulton, chairman and managing director, Moulton Developments Ltd. and Moulton Bicycles Ltd.
7 David Brunnschweiler, deputy chief executive. Viyella International Ltd.
Case history 1/cutting the cost
One clear case of profit by design was described by Dr John Sisson, right, director, Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. who showed how new design thinking has been applied to an existing hand-sprayer unit. The unit, shown on the left of the illustration above, contained 40 different parts and weighed 1 1/2 lb. The spray head alone required over 30 different parts made of stamped, machined and chrome plated metal, and the zinc die-cast handle had to be locked into the short neck of the container with brass inserts and pins - a costly and time consuming assembly operation.
In the redesigned spray unit, shown on the right above, the screw-on spring head is now in acetal plastics and requires only 18 parts. The piston and plunger assembly has been reduced from 13 parts in the metal version to four in plastics; and the spray arm and tip assembly has been cut from 10 parts to three. The redesign of the spray unit also allowed the lower trap assembly to be transferred from the top of the main housing to the nozzle, which gives the unit a better pumping action, and an end cap and another moulded plug has been put in the assembly's place. Finally, the high density polythene container is now blow moulded in one piece, and its long integral neck doubles as a handle. The redesign, besides reducing the number of parts to 19 and cutting the sprayer's weight to 8 oz. has also increased the sprayer's capacity from 32 oz to 40 oz. and cut its price by half.
Success depends on teamwork
Although the industrial designer had already stolen a good deal of the limelight, many speakers were emphatic that in modern conditions the designer is but one cog in the industrial machine. Alexander Moulton, chairman and managing director, Moulton Developments Ltd and Moulton Bicycles Ltd. put it in the strongest terms:
"Engineering is one of the creative activities in which nothing can be brought to reality by one man alone.... It requires a team, the selection of which, and the ability for good communication among members, are vital to success."
Count Sigvard Bernadotte, the industrial design consultant from Sweden, departed somewhat from the paper he had prepared, but showed in a dialogue with one of his major clients, Erik Goliath, research manager, Facit, the importance of establishing good working relations with the client's engineering team. Bernadotte had written in his paper:
"Alone the designer can do very little: together with the people from the construction, sales and distribution departments and the management he can add his little - but important - bit to the successful whole. He is, to be sure, only a small cog in the machinery that produces goods, but without this little cog the product would lack something."
And Dr John Sisson, director, Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. obviously agreed with this self-effacement when he gave this warning:
"Let no trace of inferiority complex lead him (the designer) to assert overmuch the importance of his own function."
Dr Sisson went on to describe what the ideal team should consist of, at least as far as the plastics industry is concerned:
"The ideal team to work on a design project will include the industrial designer (and although in this company I put him first I do not necessarily mean that he will lead the team), the technical service or application development man from the chemical materials manufacturer and, of course, a representative of the fabricator, who will be expert in the mass production of the article concerned. Other specialists may be called in from time to time, but that team will be at the heart of the endeavour."
Not everyone was convinced, however, that we are moving fast enough towards this ideal objective. De Pree expressed a fear which will strike a chord among many enginears:
"We have not yet eliminated the 'cult of the great designer'. Of course, one man can still make outstanding contributions. However, because our age is becoming more complicated and because there is more information than one man can assimilate and keep, the odds of this happening are getting pretty bad. There has been an old adage in the design world that a committee design results in a camel. This is no longer true. Today's designers have multiple information sources and they must learn to be assemblers, editors, sifters of information as they solve problems."
And Stevens, in a brilliant recording of an imaginary meeting between a consultant designer and the other members of the development team, stressed the importance of each team member sticking to his own specialised job - and especially, of course, not interfering with the designer.
Few design conferences get by without some reference to the training of industrial designers, and this congress was no exception. The reason is not hard to find, for a profession which is still struggling to gain recognition, and which is still uncertain about how best it can fulfil its role, must continually re-examine the foundations on which its future will depend. In optimistic terms, Flurscheim described recent changes in the training of industrial designers for the engineering industries:
"The industrial designers of the older generation have, for the most part, obtained their experience with an art or architectural background: they have made a great contribution in many fields, but with some notable exceptions do not make close contact in the more sophisticated engineering areas. It is for this reason that the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design has laid down that about one quarter of the art school curriculum for industrial design in engineering should be devoted to the engineering sciences, a much higher content than has been customary in the past, and it is very largely to support this increased technical content that the training period for full practising qualifications has been extended to five years."
David Brunnschweiler, deputy chief executive, Viyella International Ltd. was less
Case history 2/more light for less power
Eumig with Super 8
with dichroic reflector
0.3 per cent
8.0 per cent
The interaction between designers and engineers was illustrated in the paper by Dr J. W. Strange, general manager, Research and Engineering Laboratories, British Lighting Industries Ltd. who described the development of projection equipment for 8mm film.
Until a few years ago, such equipment used a large optical condenser systems,1, with a conventional projector lamp. And although a conventional 500W lamp produced 11,000 lumens, only 35 eventually reached the screen.
The first step to a more efficient and rational design was the combination of the reflector with the lamp. This took two main forms - a shaped bulb with a mirror as part of the bulb surface, and a Truflector lamp, 2 in which a separate reflector is mounted within the lamp bulb. These lamps collected a much higher proportion of the light and directed it on the film gate. The considerable reduction in size made possible a smaller, neater projector, and with a 21 5V, 150W Truflector lamp, an average screen illumination of 80 lumens could be
achieved with a similar objective lens - an eightfold increase in efficiency.
The next stage followed the introduction of low voltage tungsten halogen lamps, a. Their efficiency is 30 per cent above conventional lamps, although their lives are twice as long, and the light output is maintained at 100 per cent throughout life, due to the elimination of blackening. Their smaller size, too, helped the optical designer, and enabled the designer of the equipment to produce a much more compact unit. The wattage of the lamp was reduced to a fifth of the conventional lamp, but the screen lumens were up by 200 per cent.
At this stage development had reached what might be called the 'heat barrier'- so much heat and light were now being focused on the film that burning could occur. The next design objective was, therefore, a lamp system which focused the light but not the heat, and this was made possible by the introduction of special dichroic mirrors which reflect the visible radiation but allow the bulk of the heat radiation to pass through.
The compact nature of the low voltage tungsten halogen lamp has enabled it to be combined with a dichroic mirror using a much larger collection angle than was previously possible,4, and the lens system was then designed to collect most of the light from this large mirror. With the parallel introduction of Super 8 film, which gives an effective increase in picture area of 50 per cent, it will now be possible to achieve the remarkable figure of 240 lumens on the screen with a 100W lamp.
happy about the training of designers for the textile industry:
"The traditional methods of teaching textile design, utilising primitive hand looms and screen printing tables, were always open to question as a suitable background for industrial designing. Today, these methods are especially inadequate for potential designers of synthetic fibre fabrics fabrics of all types and especially of fine gauge warp and weft knitted materials, who at present have to teach themselves as best they can. In spite of the phenomenal growth in the use of cloth made by this process, the number of warp knitting technologists now being trained is probably smaller than in 1939, while not one of the British colleges of art with a textile department concerns itself with the unique design features of warp knitted fabrics."
Count Bernadotte explained why design training is much more difficult than than it might appear:
"The industrial designer today is or should be a blend of architect, engineer, craftsman. He must be something of a research man, a marketing man. He naturally cannot be a specialist in all the fields, but he must be somebody who knows enough about these things to be able to ask the right questions and digest the answers."
Dr Barnes Wallis, chief of aeronautical research and development, British Aircraft Corporation (Operating) Ltd. was concerned with the problem of creativity in the training of designers and engineers:
"Dr Hudson, in the course of his research into intellectual motivation, states that he has found surprisingly sharp distinctions between art and science students, namely that art students are trained to think in a wide-ranging manner round practical or intellectual problems, whereas science students are trained to search hypothetically for the one correct solution.
"In otherwords, these men are 'convergent' thinkers. In contrast, the art students are trained to think divergently, and are encouraged by their teachers to do so. In America, divergent thinking is associated with originality whereas convergent thinking is deemed dull and conforming."
Only one speaker, however, considered the question of how industry can help the student designer. E. D. Mairs, vice president, Aluminum Co of America, described how his own company goes about it, and argued that this is not altruism but a policy of long term investment in
Hugh De Pree, president, Herman Miller Inc. a speaker In session 1
Speakers in session 2 of the congress on The Industrial Designer's Role in Product Development:
1 Richard Stevens, industrial design manager, Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd.
2 Neil Wates, director, Wates Ltd.
3 Count Sigvard Bernadotte, industrial design consultant.
4 C. H. Flurscheim, director of engineering, Power Group, Associated Electrical lndustries L
5 Lord Queensberry, professor of ceramics and industrial glass, Royal College of Art.
6 Henri Vienot, director general, Technes.
7 Brian Bonfield, formerly managing director, British Domestic Appliances Ltd.
the designers of tomorrow:
"We believe that our customer's designer is one of the keys to our corporate future. We start presenting our story while he is being educated. For many years we have been engaged in programmes with design schools and universities throughout the United States. We provide materials, films, technical libraries, and monetary assistance. Our designers visit the campuses to conduct
project critiques. The objective of these programs is to inform students - tomorrow's designers - of the versatility of aluminium and of Alcoa's interest in design and designers."
Not unnaturally, the design educators in the audience had plenty to say on the subject. Michael Pattrick, principal, Central School of Art and Design, clearly did not share the optimism that Flurscheim had expressed:
"One of the things which saddens me very much about this conference is that I cannot feel that the industrial world in this country realises the pathetic arrangements for training industrial design engineers. At the moment there are only four schools recognised for this subject. The total output last year was some 40 students. Those in charge of teaching them would agree that only a third of these are likely to be of any real value; and another third would be useful as draughtsmen in industry. But if we are to get anywhere with the business of industrial design (engineering) we must start at the beginning. Somebody must take a vigorous step towards initial training. Some of the large companies are doing good work in training schemes. This is not the right answer. I know something of the schools in America, and the whole thing is on a much higher level than we are doing here. I would hope that industrialists would press very hard for the ColD to take much more vigorous action as far as initial education is concerned in England. You cannot create a school of industrial design (engineering) by putting a few second hand lathes in the corner of an art school it needs an entirely different approach."
Misha Black, professor of industrial design (engineering), Royal College of Art, thought that there were other problems of greater urgency and importance:
"The point is not that we are incapable of providing the kind of education that is needed. The problem is that we know that there are not enough jobs in industry at the moment to warrant our increasing the
number of places for industrial design students. At the RCA the students have found it extremely difficult to find employment, and only about 10-12 students a year are involved. Last year and this year all students who have completed the course satisfactorily have found employment, but only just, and until industry will provide that head of steam which ensures that there are places for students where they will be used properly, the schools cannot do any more."
Design and technology
The implication for design of technological innovation was one of the three major themes of the congress, and there were few among the delegates who did not feel that the paper by Francis Penny, deputy director, National Engineering Laboratory, discussed the most dramatic implication of all - the effect of technological innovation on the designer himself:
"I am particularly concerned with the effect of modern digital computers. Design methods have, in the past, changed slowly and many of the tools still in use by designers today are of considerable antiquity. Designers, while acting as the main source of much product innovation, have been extremely conservative in their own methods.
"All this is about to change and I believe that the change, when it does come, will be so profound as to be little short of a revolution; a revolution brought about by computers. The revolution will affect not only the technological designer, who already uses computers extensively, but also the aesthetic designer who uses them hardly at all at the present time."
It is impossible to summarise in a few words Penny's fascinating account of the new techniques which are being developed, but his concluding remarks should do much to allay the fears of those who believe that computer-aided design will result in lower standards and a reduction in creativity:
"By using a computer aid, with its immense and reliable memory and its ability to carry out calculations and logical processes at lightning speed, the human designer can be relieved of painstaking chores and be left free to exercise his gifts of inspiration and judgment. As a result I believe that we shall have a higher standard of both technological and aesthetic design, greater productivity from the design team and perhaps, most important of all, a reduction in the time which elapses between the initiation of the design and the marketing of the product."
That the implications for design of technological progress are not always so dramatic, was clear from several speakers. De Pree expressed it in general terms:
"We do not have a problem of lack of knowledge in technology, information, new materials. We do not have to meet here to be informed on these things. We do, however, have a problem in the use of know-how. We do have a problem in making a marriage between technology and the needs of people."
In a more optimistic vein, Sisson looked forward to the time when design considerations would influence the direction of technological experiment in the production of man-made fibres:
"Entirely new chemical fibres are unlikely to be viable against the opportunities presented by modifying existing polymers and yarns to improve the aesthetics of the high performance synthetic fabrics and garments. In selecting desirable modifications, aesthetic considerations will become more and more important. Hence, although I know of no polymer which has been discovered because people thought there was particular application for it, we are entering an era in fibre production when our polymer research and yarn production technology will be keenly attuned to the needs of the textile designer."
While the exploration of this theme revolved around the effect of technological innovation on design, Moulton was more concerned with the way in which the designer himself could become an innovator:
"What differentiates the designer, who
successfully innovates, from the crackpot inventor is the depth of study.... I am wary of the inventor who is always overemphasising the money reward that could result from the exploitation of his idea. Very often the desire for money can invoke wishful thinking around an idea which is in fact invalid.
"The worthwhile designs or innovations
spring from those who derive deep satisfaction, essential to their nature, from the whole act of conceiving, developing and bringing to reality a new thing."
At question time these problems of marrying design and technology were explored in a number of directions. In
answer to a question about the use of industrial designers in the aircraft industry, R. Stanton-Jones, technical director, British Hovercraft Corporation Ltd (see also page 24), said that they had certainly been used, particularly for interiors of aircraft:
"Our complaint about this type of industrial designer is that he has nowhere near the proportionate appreciation of the engineering side as the engineering staff have of the industrial design problem.... We would like to see these industrial designers coming to us knowing something about engineering."
But from the floor, D. H. J. Schenk, executive director, Pictorial Machinery Ltd. thought that "There is possibly a better chance if we try to introduce into the good engineering designer something of the appreciation and capability of the industrial designer."
In another group G. A. McMillan, director, Furniture Industry Research Association, made the same point:
"We will not get any real progress until we get closer links between the technologists and the designer. Are we to teach the technologist some design or the designer some natural science?"
Brunnschweiler, from the platform, saw the answer in an earlier theme:
"Specialisation is getting so important, I think one has to weld together teams, say four-man teams, covering production, design, sales and financial matters.... I believe this team build-up of all the talents is the key, and one neglects any one aspect at one's peril."
G. B. R. Feilden, group technical director, Davy-Ashmore Ltd. speaking from the audience, thought that many of these difficulties stem from a basic failure in communications:
"Designers must learn to put over their ideas in a simple, methodical form and not in obscure mathematical formulae. They must be better salesmen of their ideas."
But De Pree was pessimistic about the lack of innovation in almost every sphere:
"Industry and designer are no longer willing to gamble on innovation. A vacuum has been created by our no-risk attitude, and into this vacuum have moved the scientists, psychologists, the anthropologists, the mathematicians; in other words, the problem-solvers. These men are using technology to solve the real problems of people today."
Case history 3/developing the hovercraft
R. Stanton-Jones, technical director, British Hovercraft Corporation Ltd. described how, in the development of the hovercraft, designer's role was to recognise the essential priorities. The SRN1 proved that the basic principle of riding on a cushion of air was a practical proposition. It established that the basic theories were correct, and gave the first real engineering design data which enabled subsequent craft to be built.
The results of the SRN1 experiment indicated that a machine of at least 100-150 tons would be needed to compete with existing ship ferries. But to jump from a crude 4 ton experimental craft to a 150 ton commercial craft in one step was impossible. It was decided that the most sensible engineering approach would be to develop the large 150 ton craft in three stages - the 27 ton SRN2 followed by the 37 ton SRN3, both of which were highly successful.
The designers were not yet ready, however, to go ahead with the 150 ton SRN4, so it was
back to the drawing board for a complete re-think on what the large hovercraft of the future should be. And while the problem of the large hovercraft was being solved, there was a major breakthrough in the development of long flexible skirts which allowed small craft of 7-10 tons to have the overwave capability previously attainable only with craft five times larger.
Two new machines of this size, known as the SRN5 and SRN6, which are 10 ft longer, were built and have been in production for about two years. Thirty have been made, accumulating some 17,000 hours of operation, and carrying over half a million passengers.
As more and more craft go into service, the design compromise shifts steadily towards more passenger appeal, more comfort and more control, without increased cost, and it is not surprising that there are not more than two identical craft in this series.
The complete re-engineering of the 150 ton SRN4 took about two years. Not long after that
orders were placed by commercial customers and the detail design and construction started in October 1965. The first machine should be ready towards the end of 1967.
Now that the SRN4 is well under way, the designers have turned their attention to two other plans for future hovercraft development. The first of these is called the BH7, which is a 40 ton craft using one engine, transmission and propeller and all the basic structural "bricks" from the SRN4. There is also the possibility of making three or perhaps even four craft varying in size from 40 tonners to 300 tonners, using the same basic engineering principles.
The second and much longer term plan concerns work on the feasibility of really large hovercraft of multi-thousand tons. The designer's sums show that such craft are possible in exactly the way that the sums showed that the SRN4 was possible seven years ago, and the majority of the technology required is also available.
The function of design in marketing
The Americans have probably always had a clearer idea than most Europeans of the exact place of design within the total marketing policy of a company. Certainly the most dramatic expression of what marketing is all about came from an American marketing and design consultant, Walter Margulies, president, Lippincott & Margulies Inc. whose arguments were accompanied by impressionistic sound and vision. He was describing the changing nature of world business:
"I believe that the remaining third of this century will be known as the age of the global corporation. More and more of the world's business will be done by fewer and fewer great companies.... I predict that by the end of the century . . . by the year 2,000 . . . perhaps 200 global corporations will do 60 per cent of the world's business. What kind of companies will these new industrial giants be ? They will be multi-national companies which will leap national barriers by encompassing them; companies which don't think in terms of exporting. Does a manufacturer in Manchester think in terms of exporting to London ? Of course not. He markets there. Global marketing must go beyond old ideas. As a start, the major barriers of language and cultural differences must be overcome."
Margulies went on to describe some of the visual communications or corporate identity programmes which his firm has carried out for several large international companies.
This challenge of global communications in the remaining third of the twentieth century raised an echo in the attitudes to the function of design in marketing of Dr John Treasure, director of research and marketing, J. Walter Thompson Co Ltd:
"In the most fundamental sense . . . marketing is communication. Communication between the consumer and the producer is maintained in two ways - by advertising, merchandising and packaging from the producer to the consumer, and by sales behaviour and market research from the consumer to the producer.
"The role of design and designers in this communications system is clear enough. Design is an integral part of the product itself and of its packaging - in other words, it is an integral part of the benefit or utility that the consumer derives from purchasing the product."
But he warned against some of the false aspersions cast on the influence of marketing on design:
"We must get away from the attitude of mind which gives priority to some 'inner truth' of the product and disdains such trifling methods as its appearance, colour, convenience in use, packaging, advertising and retail presentation. This is a pervasive attitude in all classes and political shades of opinion, and it is a handicap to us as a nation both at home and overseas."
Although most of the speakers argued that investment in design would pay off in a variety of ways, few provided more than oblique references to the congress subject of profit by design. But Douglas Kelley, an American design consultant who was formerly director general, Compagnie de l'Esthetique Industrielle, and is now in charge of the European operations of Lippincott & Margulies Inc. focused his sights on the subject right from the start:
"What can the designer do for profits ? What responsibility, either of major or of minor consequence, can he fulfil for business with a mature, practical and yet creative attitude ? My premise is that the more challenging the marketing responsibility demanded of the designer, the more successful will be the design accomplishment, from all points of view."
And later on:
"It is our belief that only by a complete involvement, as a participant or indeed as a main co-ordinator of the many real and unreal marketing aspects will industry gain the optimum value from the design attitude."
If any of this could be described as conventional marketing theory, then Bernard Stern, managing director, Rotaflex (Great Britain) Ltd. was emphatically against it:
"My own experience has indicated clearly over a very long time that, so far as we are concerned, conventional marketing methods have never proved useful in the sense in which the practice is generally understood. As we all know, conventional marketing methods involve an intricate system which enables one to find out at considerable expense that there is no market for a product of which there exists no like.... Even now, with an almost world wide sales organisation in the process of establishment, I still find that when we hit upon a completely
unable to formulate a sound opinion of the sales that will result." Stern's own approach to marketing on an international scale is "to avoid direct local competition by offering equipment incapable of being made economically in small batches" - an approach which seems fully justified by resuIts:
"It is anticipated that, over the next 12 months our exports will again double".
Bonfield had written in his paper about the rather different methods that apply in the domestic appliance field:
"The marketing plan establishes not only strategy but also the relating logistics of quantities, time, price, targets, promotion plans, etc. It provides a complete blueprint for all departments as to the part each will play in the coordinated launch of the new product."
And once the new product is ready:
"Hotpoint normally launches it in a limited test market area before going 'national'. The reasons for doing this are, first, in the early stages there is not enough stock or output for effective national distribution, second, to limit the area is an insurance against any residual teething troubles, and third, by careful analysis of the test market we can project our national sales with a high degree of accuracy and establish production rates."
The importance of corporate identification through a carefully planned house style was recognised by several speakers, but Lord Sainsbury, chairman, J. Sainsbury & Co Ltd. could perhaps be most justly praised for the impeccable design standard which his company has established. He described how his policy extends right through the organisation from the stores themselves to the window displays, point of sale material and packaging, and continued:
"Attention to these details all adds up in the end to the overall impression, the overall 'image' of cleanliness, neatness, orderliness which characterises our method of trading; a method of trading which we take great pains to live up to.... However good a single item may be, its importance and value are lost, or at any rate diminished, if it is not related to the whole."
The challenge of change
The congress left little doubt in the minds of unconventional approach to the solution of a the delegates that one of
the most difficult lighting problem, and we offer the resultant problems in industry is how to cope with the products
to our sales staff, they are quite increasing rate of change in almost every field. How are these changes affecting design ? And conversely, how are designers facing up to the challenge of a changing world ? Mairs expressed the point in a confident vein:
"Change is the dominant characteristic of our world. In my business, changing technology is the key to the future . . . and design is a primary channel through which the results of our research efforts are translated into useful new products for industry and consumers."
Queensberry described the penalties of not appreciating the need for change:
"One of the problems of the pottery industry is that most factories have not learnt to appreciate fashion cycles. These are built in to the structure of other industries. Manufacturers of textiles, wallpapers and motor cars think that they have to change their designs every year or two but the pottery industry does not think like this.
This is perhaps because during recent years there has been so much traditional design sold, and traditional design does not have quite the same problems of fashion that must necessarily exist in modern products."
The question of whether the public is prepared to accept change in design was taken up by many speakers in the audience. One discussion followed Moulton's paper, in which he described his failure to persuade the cycle industry to take up his small wheeled bicycle. Having been forced to manufacture the bicycle himself, he was able to prove its acceptability to the public, and it had in fact been a phenomenal success. This led to a full scale attack on the middlemen who come between the designer and the public-the salesmen in industry, and the retail trade. For the feeling of the congress was that the public is far more willing to accept innovation in design than the middle-men ever give it credit for.
An example came from Josine des Cressonnieres, administrative director, Belgian Design Centre, who got up to describe an experiment in market testing which the centre had carried out. A number of products of a high standard were being produced for export only, because the makers' sales representatives were convinced that they were too sophisticated for the Belgian market. But the makers were persuaded to show samples in the centre and, as a result, there were so many inquiries that the products were put on to the Belgian home market - where they proved to be highly successful.
Case history 4/re-thinking a company's policy
Herbert Berry, head of the faculty of three dimensional design, Birmingham College of Art and Design, described the development of a design policy at Lucas Furniture, where he has been design consultant for severe/years. When he joined the firm, it had been in existence for about 70 years, concentrating largely on the domestic market, and producing a wide variety of different ranges, product policy being largely determined by retail dominance.
For the first year, the design contribution consisted of making minor modifications to existing products to improve production efficiency. This culminated in the development of a range of modern bedroom furniture, which could be made from standardised parts.
The next step was the decision to develop a single range of office furniture to expand the existing contract market interests. A careful study of the requirements was made, and from the beginning it was decided to create a high quality product, using the normal machine construction methods which the factory technicians had developed.
This was a momentous policy decision which led eventually to concentrating exclusively on the contract market. New selling methods were discussed and decided upon, out of which emerged a planned sales promotion scheme. Considerable thought was given to evolving a new company image. A new
exhibition policy was decided upon, and a house sty/e was designed in keeping with the very modern products the company intended to make.
At the same time, a new range of products was designed, introducing innovations in construction methods, and leading to considerably increased efficiency. Because the products were designed for long life, long production runs were laid down. The designers were also carefull to standardise parts, dimensions, units, materials and finishes in complete ranges of furniture, and even sometimes over several different ranges.
Every new product is sold by presenting it through continuous but limited advertising through selected media, backed up by a comprehensive, factual catalogue. The sales representatives are technically informed and are available to advise potential clients. Through these relatively economic means, full and developing production has been continually achieved.
The company now has, therefore, a wide range of highly standardised products continually in production. All have potentially long production life, and sales progressively increase. Factory production is extremely efficient; the company has developed an excellent image and reputation; and everyone has an unshakeable pride in the products.
Anthony Wedgwood Benn, Minister of Technology, speaking at the congress dinner
The same discussion, it turned out, was going on simultaneously in another group. John Hard, managing director, D. Meredew Ltd. reflected the views of other speakers about the difficulties of selling through the retail trade:
"I came here today hoping to get some glimpse of how to get profit, by design or any other means. We make domestic furniture. I listened to Hugh De Pree and Herbert Berry (whose paper is summarised on page 26), and the message they gave me is to get out of the domestic trade and to sell in the contract market."
And Terence Conran, chairman, Conran & Co Ltd. went further than anyone in his condemnation of the retail trade:
"Sack all the retailers. This is really the problem that this conference has got to face. It is no good a manufacturer collaborating with a designer and producing a magnificent article if it cannot be sold properly. Retailing in this country, and throughout the world, is at an appallingly low level."
But De Pree questioned the whole basis of industrial thinking on this subject:
"What industry wants from the designer is not change but styling. The criterion is, do something that will make the consumer yearn to buy it. The American automobile companies have been, and should be, bludgeoned incessantly for their failure to recognise real design problems."
Later he enlarged on this theme and in doing so, perhaps, provided a summary of all our doubts and fears about the pattern of change in society:
"I have now tried to convince you that while the world is changing rapidly we in the design world are making little contribution to real change. We have lost our gambling spirit, the spirit of innovation. I have also tried to show that while technology is terribly important, and it is one of the principal subjects of our conference here, it is not the real problem. The real problem, if we want to make a contribution to change, is that designers have to bring in the human factor, people's needs, and have to marry these needs to the pertinent technology. The tool for doing this is a team composed of people who have relevant skills and information.
"Can designers do this ? They have become too compartmentalised. They are structured out of real problems and too concerned with how the product looks. This is because designers are trying to function outside of known technology, making them stylists.
"Industry, too, has a problem in using new technology. Much of industry is wandering and lost through a misunderstanding of its own direction.
"To many people, we in industry are phonies. We are advertising what we don't have. We are making loud statements about our tiny moves which do nothing but maintain the status quo.
"Profit by design ? By styling and adding ornaments ? By thinking only of how it looks ? By trying to maintain the 'cult of the great designer' ? By ignoring vast treasures of available information ? By sticking only with tried and true tooling and facilities ? The answer is no. We will profit by design only when we close the gap of knowledge and form team units in a true problem-solving effort."
Future prospects for design in Britain
The working sessions of the congress were over, but delegates, in a more relaxed and informal mood, had listened to two speeches at the dinner the previous evening which underlined much of what was said in the papers and discussions, and reinforced in the minds of everyone present the importance of design to the future prosperity of British industry. Anthony Wedgwood Benn, Minister of Technology, stressed the need for the designer to be brought in as an integral part of the whole management process. He must be brought in at the beginning if he is to contribute fundamental new thinking and help to eliminate waste.
"There is another reason why management must bring the designer in early. Unless his goods are market oriented and are designed with an economy and simplicity that alone allow the full deployment of artistic skill, unless they use the new technologies and new materials and new production methods to the full, he will never sell them, and may be driven out of the market."
Lord Aldington, chairman, General Electric Co Ltd. said that he often found himself in disagreement with the minister:
"But tonight I find myself in full agreement with his main purpose to support the ColD and the theme of this conference".
Looking back over the past 10-15 years, he continued, "Experience has taught me that the economic forces that govern and inspire good management demand attention to design and to designers - and demand, in
Speakers in session 3 of the congress on Design and Marketing:
1 Bernard Stern, managing director, Rotaflex (Great Britain) Ltd.
2 William L. Mather, chairman, Mather & Platt Ltd.
3 Douglas Kelley, design consultant.
4 Dr John Treasure, director of research and marketing, J. Walter Thompson Co Ltd.
5 Lord Sainsbury, chairman, Sainsbury & Co Ltd.
6 Eliot Noyes, Eliot Noyes and Associates.
7 Sir Leslie Rowan, deputy chairman and managing director, Vickers Ltd.
8 Dr Traugott Malzan, head of the information department, Braun AG
9 Walter Margulies, president, Lippincott & Margulies Inc.
simple terms, that designers are with it and not without it.... I welcome the optimism of the Council for the future as shown in its twenty-first annual report, and perhaps I might express the hope that by the nineteen seventies the Council will be unnecessary, because the British economy will have become a perfect economy, and British taste will become perfect taste. But of all the possibilities for the nineteen seventies, Wedgwood Benn or no Wedgwood Benn, that is perhaps the least likely".
The speakers were thanked by John Davies, director-general, Confederation of British Industry, in a closing speech
of great charm and wit. But he reminded delegates of the aftermath of the industrial revolution today "the sight of
industry is inexpressably horrible". But the future would not be so depressing: "I sense an extraordinary degree of
vitality in Britain. I have no doubt that this virility will break through for all to see, not very long now."
Winding up the congress in the final session of the following day, Paul Reilly, director, ColD, gave a frank account of the Council's aims:
"We intended quite deliberately to grind the designer's axe, to sell again, through the mouths of those with first hand experience, the concept of total design from research and development to marketing and sales promotion.
"There was, too, a modicum of deception in our choice of Profit by Design as the title of the congress, since it would as yet be naive to pretend that good design is in all cases good business, or that in every case the designer's single handed initiative can radically affect profits. Indeed, as those of us who have been trying to push this steamroller uphill for half a lifetime well know, 'good design, good lousiness' has always been as much an expression of wishful thinking as of measurable fact.
"I feel sure, though, that this conference has been well timed to coincide, in this country at least, with a resurgence of interest in the subject and even, I like to think in my more optimistic moments, with a renaissance of native talent and achievement."
Perhaps the final endorsement of this optimism can best come from the overseas delegate who enviously remarked, "If over 300 chairmen and directors of top British companies are willing to spend two days discussing design, then surely the battle has largely been won." Delegates stroll in the concourse of the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, where the congress was held.