Masco Corp., a $12B global building products company and an IDSA Patron, hired Charles Jones, FIDSA as the company’s very first chief design officer (CDO) to be responsible for the enterprise leadership of design strategies across Masco's 29 global business units. In that role, Jones leads design teams on four continents that work in a wide range of product categories, including plumbing (faucets, showering systems, bathing products), architectural products (cabinets, windows and hardware) and coatings (industrial and residential paint and coatings).
We talked with Jones about how design and business can speak a common language as well as the guiding principles he uses to inspire his design teams.
Do you view your work more in terms of creating culture or creating value for business?
In essence the answer to this question is both…but they are somewhat sequential. My experience has been that first a corporate culture (the term I like to use is "design ecosystem") needs to be established. In its most basic sense, there needs to be an alignment between the vision for design at the leadership level and the values of the corporation with regard to design. As the ecosystem takes root, there is a foundation to create and execute outstanding design work with the data of increased share, margin, customer loyalty, etc. as a result. Any design leader needs to be able to successfully deliver both the right culture and the right value for design to be embedded meaningfully in the fabric of any enterprise
How do you translate the design process and its value for any audience unfamiliar with design?
In my world, any design process must be communicated in terms of business outcomes. Articulation of process without connecting that process to the "so what" becomes a very difficult and frustrating exchange between the designers and the "audience" they are working with. Benchmark data is often helpful in explaining design process, as is third party validation. The best approach is to employ a cause and effect model where the best possible design outcome can be linked back to a key process (or processes) which is (or are) shown to be instrumental to design leadership.
Is there a single guiding principle you use to lead your design teams?
I actually have three guiding principles I use to inspire any design team I have the privilege of leading:
1) Always structure a multi-disciplinary approach to design. Always create and build exceptional teams of talented people from areas such as industrial design, human factors, interaction design, graphics, studio engineering and virtual/physical prototyping.
2) Once you have the team in place—get out of their way! The days of Raymond Lowey-type management where an uber designer makes every call is dead (thankfully). Any design leader
worth his/her salt needs to be able to set a high level direction and then support their team to the hilt.
3) Have fun! To be honest, most corporate design groups have had any sense of fun, adventure and wonderment beaten out of them. The job of any design leader is to balance the serious,
business-oriented nature of delivering all of the value that design brings, but for crying out loud, have a little bit of fun and spontaneity while doing it!
Is design getting a seat at the table on Masco’s Board of Directors?
In my instance, Masco Corp. has made the decision to have a direct voice for design at the executive leadership team level. This is a huge sign of progress for design in general and speaks to the commitment Masco is placing on design as a source of sustainable competitive advantage. I am honored to be the first ever chief design officer at the company, and it is a huge responsibility to ensure we deliver on that commitment. We must build the kind of design ecosystem that will enable us deliver products and services that deliver compelling, differentiated experiences and create customers for life.
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