The Design-Business Conversation: Elements Affecting Translation from Design to Business and from Business to Design

Zivile Bagdonaite

Student thesis: Master thesis


Communication between service sellers and service buyers within business-to-business environment has always faced a number of barriers for mutual understanding and effective information sharing. However, the process becomes even more complicated when design-sellers and design-buyers meet. Quite naturally design mindset contrasts that of business, which can be explained by both contrasting intrinsic personality traits and educational backgrounds. Furthermore, the nature of design process makes the design quality and applicability reliant on collaboration and mutual understanding much more than that of a regular product or service. Loss of money and time, and even project termination occur due to communication and translation errors. This means that design project success and price largely depend on interaction fluency between the parties. With the design perception moving away from tangible towards intangible, more industrial companies are starting to rely on collaboration with external designers for more than just a nice package design. Most of large industrial companies such as Novo Nordisk have their own design facilitation units. However, it is still expensive for them to continuously retain strong internal design competences. Such tendencies together with the lack of existing research on design-business communication demand a closer investigation into the issue. The most comprehensive knowledge can be built from the analysis of the information shared by the ones facing the problem and its consequences every day. Dictated by the broad scope of the problem qualitative research method – Theory Building from Case Study in combination with Grounded Theory Method - has been applied to answer the research question: Which elements of the designer-buyer collaboration critically affect multi-level translation within design project? Building from the empirical research across three industries (design, pharmaceutical and media), five critically disruptive elements have been identified: Knowledge Gap, Stakeholder Management, Detachment between Actors, Ambiguous Design Strategy, Different Levels of Willingness to Risk and Opposing Goals. The research findings reveal that depending on how prevalent these elements are it can either come out as successful or unsuccessful design-business collaboration. Keywords: Design Communication, Design Management, Design-Business Intersect, Theory Building from Case Study, Grounded Theory Method, Design-Business Translation

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages88