Professor Dr. Peter Zec, President red dot, together with Thomas Lockwood, DMI President
Professor Dr. Peter Zec during his speech


Design Management Annual in Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Peter Zec presents the value of design at the Design Management Institute

When he met his economic advisors one year ago, Barack Obama said: “If Germany generates 40 per cent of its industry by their exports, it seems to me that they get something right, which we are lacking. And we’ve got to find out what it is.” Today, Germany’s export share adds up to 46.8 %. In fact, Germany had to relinquish its top ranking on the list of the globally largest export nations to China in 2009. Nevertheless, innovative and high quality products will still be in demand in the future.

“In Germany the export share of design-oriented leading enterprises is far above the average,” explained Prof. Dr. Peter Zec at the beginning of his lecture on “The value of design”, which he gave on 26 October at the Design Management Institute in Boston (USA). During the three-day conference, he presented current figures to a highly interested professional audience. The red dot institute established these figures in a comparative market analysis for design-oriented companies. In spite of the global economic crisis, German suppliers of premium products achieved more than 75 % of their sales on international markets in 2009. “Be it AUDI or BMW, Grohe or Hansgrohe, Bosch or Metabo, Kaercher or Stihl – all the manufacturers are shining with top-class quality products; and as for design, they are globally on their road to success,” says Zec.

In the USA as well, there are companies that reach comparable top values. Tupperware, which was the red dot design team of the year in 2009, achieves about 80 % of its sales outside the USA. The products are convincing in terms of quality and usefulness. In response to questions of the audience if the brand was more important or rather its design, Zec explained, “that purchase decisions are made on the product level, which is essentially determined by its design.”

In his presentation he illustrated these differences taking leading computer manufacturers as an example. He compared the design values – established by the red dot institute – of U.S. American companies like Apple, Dell and Hewlett Packard with the values of Asian manufacturers like for example Samsung. He did not only disclose the calculation of the design value, but he also explained the different strategies of the manufacturers. Due to long-term observations in the red dot design award and the calculation of the design values, informative comparisons can be drawn between the companies and within the industry. Exemplary analyses on this are given in the book “Designwert” (design value) written by Peter Zec and Burkhard Jacob, which is also available in English.

Apparently, the message got through. After Professor Zec had finished his speech, a most exciting discussion developed on what was the added value of the performance of a designer or a design studio for a customer. Now, for the first time, the design value allows to determine this value and observe it over a longer period. Thus, a design studio and a company have the possibility to close a gap in the evaluation of design and agree on economic goals that can be reached with design.

“Behind each product there are courageous decisions; they have to be made by a manufacturer or manager and they always involve a certain risk,” the co-author of the book “Der Designwert” Burkhard Jacob comments on the situation. “If the contribution, which design makes to the economic success of a company and its brand value, is measurable, the decision to invest in design will evidently be reached easier.” From that point of view, the design value is both an instrument and an indicator. It relates the soft facts of design to the hard facts of economy.