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Conference to Examine the Role of Design in Business

Corporate leaders and designers will gather for The Design of Business/The Business of Design on November 2 and 3.

By Karen Guzman

Business leaders and students will join practitioners and students of the art of design at Edward P. Evans Hall in November to explore the role of design in business.

The conference, titled “The Design of Business/The Business of Design” and presented by the design website Design Observer and the professional association AIGA, will take place on November 2 and 3. The event will convene corporate leaders and designers to discuss the core values and best practices that support design-led business, as well as the impact that design has on business practices and processes.

Jessica Helfand
Jessica Helfand

“Our goal is to examine design as a humanist discipline, as a management discipline, and as a catalyst in business,” says Jessica Helfand, lecturer in design and management and a founder of Design Observer.

Student leaders from the Design and Innovation Club are helping run the conference. “Design as a concept, a process, and an industry is having a moment throughout the corporate world and at business schools, and our club has become one of the largest student groups at SOM,” says Katherine Cole ’19. “But the space can sometimes feel vague, amorphous, and buzzword-y. This conference is an amazing opportunity to make tangible the relationship between design and business, and for students to connect with real people and real ideas.”

One portion of the conference will pair CEOs of organizations, including PepsiCo and the New York Times, with their creative directors—“to demonstrate,” Helfand says, “how business thrives when there is a creative leader in the C-suite.” Four smaller symposia, led by IBM, Adobe, Target, and CitiVentures, will consider aspects of the business design process, namely, “Access,” “Apparatus,” “Audience,” and “Agility,” respectively.

Helfand said that she hopes the conference will serve as an extension of the class she co-teaches and the podcast  she co-hosts with Michael Bierut, a co-founder of Design Observer and a lecturer in the practice of design and management.

Yale SOM, with its mission of educating leaders for business and society, its international student body, and its cross-campus ties, is the ideal host. “This conference is not about spreadsheets or about stakeholders, but about real people making real things in the real world,” Helfand says. “We’re going to talk about patience, about spirit, about soul. 

“Yale SOM is known for grooming leaders and for cultivating their awareness of the people they serve, the needs they have, and the values they hold dear,” she continues.

Jackie Ball ’19 says the conference will help students cultivate design mindsets that they can apply throughout their careers.

“Our Design and Innovation club programming spans three primary areas: curriculum, speakers, and careers,” Ball says. “This conference, over the course of just two days, will address all three of those content areas.”