Designing a business has been one of the most challenging modules that I have taken whilst at Kingston University. Within this module, our team designed Bag Boy, which is a fashionable, foldable, and reusable shopping bag. The design aims to reorganise people’s shopping experience by combining a shopping list and foldable bag as well as addressing the issue of sustainability. Our products have been very successful, having nearly sold out and won the best sales pitch in the trade fair. However, from identifying the problem to finding the best solution, it has required not only the capabilities of design but also taking into account profitable business concerns. In other words, being more creative as well as using design thinking to deal with the problem of business or add value to the existing commercial activities. Moreover, during the process of this module, it has required strong collaboration when each team started their own business, which dramatically relates to professional communication skills and personality characteristics of individuals. After working in the one of biggest interior design firms in Taiwan, applying for a post in an international design firm and becoming an all-around interior designer has been my objective for the future. The experience from starting up the Bag boy has provided various perspectives, which has allowed me to gain experience in working with people who have different cultural backgrounds in the future career. Overall, I have learned and understood different aspects from the business project of Bag Boy. This essay aims to reflect and evaluate the experience in terms of this module, which may interact and relate to my goals for the future.
Firstly, a joint effort and common consensus of team spirit can improve decision-making and improve the design outcome in terms of teamworks and co-creation. Within the activities of networking, I have come to know many architects and interior designers, who have worked in Forster + Partners, one of biggest global architecture and integrated design firms in the UK (Forster + Partners, 2014). According to their working experience, most international design organisations have significantly depended on teamwork, co-creation and networking rather than specific individuals skills or behaviours. As Paulus and Nijstad (2003) point out, working individually may face considerable challenges in dealing with huge quantities of information and complicated networking application. Thus, most companies tend to work in groups and many designers now sit in open areas, which are not even called ‘office’ (Plunkert, 2012). Co-creation has provided diverse perspectives, knowledge, and skills, which not only enhances the creativity and innovation but also improves the necessity of professional development within the organisation (Paulus and Nijstad, 2003). For example, it is often common to bring together professionals from different backgrounds during the design process (Paulus and Nijstad, 2003). In other words, inseparable teamwork and collaboration have played an essential role in terms of professional development either in small design groups or international firms in the creative industries. Therefore, launching the Bag Boy business has dramatically increased and improved my experiences of teamwork, as I have collaborated with individuals from different academic and cultural backgrounds over the past six months. Within the module, I have learned how to respect different opinions from other team members, while they were from different fields of specialism. In addition, creating the right motivation and career aspirations not only belong to the responsibilities of leadership but also should be provoked by the each follower in terms of teamwork and co-creation.
Secondly, having professional communication skills can benefit group discussion during the design process of co-creation. As the recent researches shows, a good collaborator can generate active and positive attitudes, which has a considerable influence in the creativity and innovation of the team (Carrie Barron, 2013). Individuals will be more creative and open-minded when they feel pleasure of being part of a group (Carrie Barron, 2013). Furthermore, Albert Hadley, who is a legendary interior designer and has significantly influenced America’s interior design industry in late twentieth-century, has stated “a decorator, no matter how talented, cannot always get the desired results because sometimes there is resistance or maybe a lack of understanding on the part of client” (Lewis, 2005). Indeed, understanding each other is the most essential part of communication within teamwork, while we are required to work with people who have various culture cultural and academic backgrounds. Thus, even thought we are outstanding and talented individuals, the lack of communication and understanding in the group discussions will defeat the final result eventually. It is extremely important to listen to different opinions from others and learn how to compromise in different situations such as time, money or the qualities of production. Nevertheless, the compromises may be the most important conditions to be more creative and achieve the goals in the design industries.
Thirdly, the practice of sales pitching in this module has considerably improved my presentation skills. In the future, either working in a global company or starting my own interior design studio, it is essential to be able to present my ideas, concepts, and design outcomes to clients or trustees through numerous conferences and discussions. I have learned several methods of presentation during the sales pitching. It is all about how to engage your audiences and how to communicate with them. Some presenters only focus on reading their notes without making any eye contacts with the audience which can lead them losing interest very quickly. Therefore, it is extremely important to enhance presentation skills to become an all round successful interior designer.
Fourthly, the practice of design thinking will boost the capability of identifying problems and finding appropriate solutions in terms of design procedures in my future career. According to David Kelley and Tom Kelley (2012), who are the founders of IDEO, being creative is dependent upon doing something and participation rather than the amount of talent a person is born with. Indeed, there is not only ‘designing’ during the process of interior design. From assessing the strength or style of potential bidders in the design competition to integrating different types of constructions, most of designers are often considered as project manager rather than just drawing plans or designing colour and material schemes. Therefore, it is much more important to have capabilities of dealing with unexpected or unpredictable situations in terms of identifying and understanding clear problems during projects. Furthermore, design thinking has also provided a method to find suitable solutions, which has become a framework, tools or system within the design process. As Cross (2011) indicates, using design thinking is a pathway to understand and learn how to be a designer, as it provides suitable solutions which are based on evidences resulting from investigation and observation of design practices. Other evidence shows, although it was originally designed to educate and improve to become an innovator in the engineering department of Stanford University, it can dramatically impact on the perspectives of other professionals such as business and human performance (Meinel, C. , Leifer, L. and Plattner, H. , 2011). Within the creative economy, in addition to designing products and representing particular aesthetic tastes, it also includes the development and management of business, technology, human resources and leaderships. In other words, design thinking creates a vibrant, interactive surrounding, which values not only the design outcome but also project management in the design process. It has been an extremely valuable experience for me to apply to global design organisations in the future.
Finally, branding has played a significant role in terms of decision-making of design processes as well as building the reputation of organisations. According to Clifton and Ahmad (2009), although the value of branding will not be included in the balance sheet, it is the most profitable asset within the brand or portfolio of companies. One of the most important business tasks in the organisation is building a brand with impact, either in the creative industries or others (Clifton and Ahmad, 2009 and Edge and Milligan, 2009). In international firms, such as Forster + Partners, they will follow the certain style, as it represents the reputation of company. In order to create iconic works and build the reputation of the organisation, it is essential to design within the framework of the specific style chosen by the company. From using specific performance and design technology to decorating particular materials and colours, designers or organisations need to create a particular style to be recognise, as it dramatically increases the firms value in the market. In addition, the recent research shows, the vast majority of firms should develop their brand, which will guide every action or decision and effectively organise the company’s principles. In other words, there will be a clear structure for the team leader or individuals when they make decision during the design process. For instance, after branding Bag boy, our team not only easily developed its idea of packaging and display but also decided very quickly the commercial imageries and advertising style. Branding has provides a strong brief to the designer within the process of ideas development. On the other hand, the Bag Boy project significantly improved my knowledge of branding, as it has shown how it benefits to build a clear contexts or tasks before developing design ideas. During design process, some projects may lack product segmentation in the market; however, it is an essential stage for concepts development and may drive the design in the wrong direction. Therefore, integrating all the concepts from customers and building the right segmentation and positioning for the project are also part of an all-around interior designer’s job. For example, Fullon Hotel in Taiwan was one of my projects when I worked in the Rich Honour interior design company. It was a new brand of hotel chain. Our client lacked experience in operating a hotel business and was not able to give a design briefs. Therefore, how to segment and position this new hotel had become an extremely important issue rather than designing fantastic interiors and decorations. It considerably impacted the images and style of design, while branding should provide a clear structure.
In conclusion, I have learned and understood the knowledge of design thinking through the Bag Boy project, and it will significantly benefit within decision-making, teamwork, and co-creation when I apply to large interior design firms. I have built more creative confidence through the designing a business. According to David Kelley and Tom Kelley (2012), The fear of first step, messy unknown, losing control and judgment are four fears to stop people taking ricks and being creative. Therefore, building enough creative confidence is essential in order to face the difficult challenges in the future industry. Feeling comfortable to present in front of audiences and convincing people who may have different opinions is equally important. Communication and presentation skills will be extremely valuable in becoming an all-around interior designer. In addition, the experience will considerably improve my CV in my future career. It shows that I not only have the capability of handling interior design’s problem but also understanding how to position the design production, while nowadays more and more projects require integration in terms of branding, advertisement and promotion. This module has allowed me to learn and realise the whole design process in the creative industries.