Tag Archives: quality

Good Design is Good Business

Numerous studies over the past decade have touted the popular phrase “Good Design is Good Business”. But with such an intangible product, how can you know that good design will be “good” for your business?

With all the great things we know design can do for your business (such as increase productivity, reduce turnover, increase sales, reduce building maintenance costs and many more) it can be difficult for designers and firms to understand the reluctance to invest in design. Perhaps you never knew what design can do? Ask Apple. They will tell you.

While the most notable studies on the topic have come out of the U.K, there is increasing recognition throughout the Globe about the connection between design and business success. With all the information available online, finding the answers you need can be daunting, but here’s a bit of an overview.

A 2005 report by the UK Design Council pointed out the main flaw to most reports relating design and business. It states: “All worthwhile plans and projects need to be based on sound evidence.” Most people in considering their business plan fail to account for how good design can benefit them, based on a lack of evidence connecting the two concepts.

In 2007 the same council published the Value of Design – Factfinder Report, summarizing the results of two pieces of research, clearly demonstrating the value of design for businesses.

The report can be found online at http://www.designfactfinder.co.uk/.

Some of the most remarkable and positive findings include:

–       businesses that see design as integral don’t need to compete on price as much as others;

–       almost half of all UK businesses believe that, over the past decade, design has become more important in helping them maintain a competitive edge;

–       businesses where design is integral to operations are twice as likely to have developed new products and services;

–       two thirds of businesses believe that design is integral to future economic performance;

–       over two thirds of manufacturers believe its worth investing in design in their sector;

–       businesses that add value through design see a greater impact on business than the rest.

There are real life examples of good design resulting in good business in top earning global giants such as Apple, RIM and even Target. Think about the digital media market- Apple continues to dominate despite slightly higher prices for one main reason- quality design that keeps consumers coming back.

Think about the role design played in creating the ‘environments’ in some of the top money earning companies such as Lululemon Athletica, Starbucks, and BMW. All use design to portray their image, and reinforce their corporate brand, all which increases profits = $$$.

Design can help your business convey an image, create an atmosphere and make your company unique in a world of increasing competition. Design is proven to significantly improve sales, profits, and deliver a competitive edge to your business.

Design is what makes your space unique, makes your space functional, and can underpin success. Designers bring the knowledge, creativity and advice that can bring any project to life. Making decisions about projects involves budget, schedule and craftsmanship, and the intersection of these three priorities generates design innovation that can:

–       maximize the value of capital investment;

–       give you a cutting edge, quality product and service; and

–       save you money over the life of the building.

Rather than just creating appealing and original spaces, a well-designed building/space can result in cost savings for any business. Decreasing absenteeism, operational costs, and boosting moral, architecture is proving itself in the post recession world. Creating targeted approaches to the largest costs associated with operating a business such as heating and cooling, design can lower energy consumption and reduce costs.

A recently completed project by the Region of Niagara at its Recycling Centre applied these design based cost savings measures, creating an environmental showcase for the Region and providing a real life example of the benefits of good design. As an innovative solution to both the environmental and economic costs of regulating temperature within the plant, the design team installed solar chimneys, taking advantage of the suns energy to draw and exhaust hot summer air out of the plant, using natural ventilation principals to regulate temperatures and encourage airflow. Focused on efficiency and reducing operational costs, the re-design of the plant featured efficient lighting, and the installation of skylights resulting in a cost savings of over $12,000 annually. By installing geothermal, the design reduced the requirements for gas fired heaters in the plant by 75% achieving their goal of environmental sustainability, toward a vision for the facility in line with the basic principals of the recycling program which it houses. A major success, the Green Retrofit at the Niagara Recycling Centre acts as an example of innovation, and stands to support the phrase that good design is good business.

Although rarely associated in the minds of most people, architects can provide the design services to help you succeed. Drawing on extensive experience architects offer services that can maximize the value of your resources to achieve your goals for the present and the future. Offering free sessions to discuss your project, and review a custom design through our ON Target TM packages are available to suit any needs- with no obligations.

The only question to consider in reviewing the literature and resources available is- Do you want to improve your bottom line?

At our office, whenever we want to be reminded of the power of good design for our clients, we call up our contacts at the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, and ask to speak to a new employee. After he’s finished gushing about how wonderful the ILC loft renovation is as a working environment, we can return refreshed to what we do best, helping clients achieve their goals through design!

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Are you up for the challenge?

Here was the office challenge: find your favourite building in the K-W-C Region and write about why.

Having had little exposure to architecture, let alone the K-W-C Region, the first place that came to mind when faced with this question was a building recently introduced to me- the Hacienda Sarria in Kitchener. Hidden on the end of a small street between the downtown core and the expressway, this building should top anyone’s list of favourite buildings in the area.

Spanish for the word estate, a hacienda was historically a mark of status, associated with wealth and luxury available only to a small number of wealthy landowners. With large tracts of land, the haciendas were often part of a lucrative business in plantation farming, mining or factory work. Known for their unique design, the buildings traditionally featured apartments opening into an interior courtyard in the centre, much like the courtyard featured in the Hacienda Sarria.

Adapted from the remnants of an old warehouse once located on the site, the Hacienda Sarria in Kitchener features hints of the Brown Steel Works factory it once was. Showcasing local craftsmanship from companies such as the Two Smiths, every aspect of the building is a work of art. Attention to detail is evident throughout the building, featuring architectural detail true to traditional Spanish design, to create an authentic looking Hacienda in the heart of Kitchener. Complete with beautiful gardens, landscaping and ponds, the Hacienda is probably best known as a venue for weddings and local events.

Entering the building is a welcomed departure from the feeling of being in the City, transporting you to a grand courtyard in the Mediterranean Region of Europe. From the cobblestone flooring, to the sunlight streaming through the central skylight, the design features come together to create a cozy and lavish atmosphere that is both inviting and remarkable.

So now that I have found and shared my favourite place in the K-W-C Region the question now becomes are you up for the challenge? Find, photograph, and provide a short description of why you chose the building you did and post it as a comment below. Cant wait to see all the places you discover!

Guest blogger Cailin Radcliffe

More information on the Hacienda can be found on their website http://www.haciendasarriakw.com/Hacienda_Sarria_Introduction.php

Photos by Taylor Jackson Photography

Maximizing the Minimum, from House to Transit

 

Two contractors are interviewed for a project. The project owner asks about the standards that will be brought to the performance of the work. Contractor A says, “We will ensure that the standards of the Building Code are rigidly enforced, and that our trades are equally vigilant regarding this requirement. We are ISO 9000 compliant to this standard, and we have checks and balances in our quality control procedures to ensure the performance is achieved.”

Contractor B says, “We will build to the minimum allowed by law.”

Big difference? Well, maybe not.

Actually, like so many adopted standards, the building code is simply the minimum allowed by law. It is no guarantee of quality, but a minimum level that we have set for ourselves in the public interest. A sort of floor beneath which we’d rather not sink.

Contractor B’s workmanship sounds like it leaves a lot to be desired, but perhaps his is a marketing problem.

A brief tour of websites for new condominiums and “quality-built homes” provide numerous examples similar to the following: “For Your Comfort and Convenience {the} entire home sealed on exterior walls with 6 mil poly vapour barrier system.” Sounds impressive, but such construction is actually the minimum allowed by law. Where buyers are influenced by this statement, any further investment in quality is just money down the drain.

My very nice and quite competent car mechanic told me several years back that a passing grade for a “safety inspection” didn’t actually require the car to have an engine. The safety check ensures the car can stop, signal, and do all sorts of things, but “going” isn’t necessarily one of them. When you’re shopping for a used car, there sure is a lot said about that safety certificate, but how much does it actually describe the quality of what you are buying? In the absence of specialised knowledge, not much.

Some builder agreements restrict access to the building site by the home’s purchaser. Safety and liability concerns are cited as reasons why viewing or photographing the fundamental construction underlying all those interior and exterior finish options is, unfortunately, not possible.

As purchasers, how can we enforce quality when we are denied access to the product?

In our building industry and beyond, we trust government and standards organisations to design and enforce quality where our own efforts as purchasers fall short. Judging from letters to the editors, it might be the only thing we entrust to government. We rail against regulatory intrusion into our lives and the marketplace, but seem quite willing for that same regime to ensure we receive “quality” for our purchasing dollar. In some cases, such as where tap water can exceed the quality of the bottled product for which we pay so dearly, we show our trust in strange ways .

A delightful case of obfuscation regarding quality and standards lies in the history of the ISO 9000 series of certifications with which we have become so familiar. Trumpeting achievement of these standards is by no means restricted to the manufacturing sector. According to ISO {the International Standards Organisation} in 2004, “service sectors now account by far for the highest number of ISO 9001:2000 certificates – about 31% of the total”. Compliance with the ISO 9000 series standards is tacitly linked to the quality of a product or service that is offered to the marketplace. In fact, these standards (9001, 9002, and onward) describe the consistency and efficacy of business practices that an organisation uses to conform to its own quality goals.

What is missing from the scene in the rush for conformance,

is some measure of the actual quality of the product or its improvement.

The worldwide-spread of ISO 9000 standards is described by various commentators as occurring with little evidence linking the achievement of ISO 9000 management standards to improvements in product or service quality. These same authors often point out that “quality” is actually defined in ISO 8402 while the 9000 series standards concentrate on the “how” rather than the “what”. Even the definition itself: “The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs” focuses on customer satisfaction rather than some innate degree of excellence for the thing itself.

Our attempt at quality has become a contest of consistency.

Rather than raising the bar, we exult in our ability to clear it again and again and again.

Aaron Renn, in his recent “urbanophile” post, talks about raising the bar on design, using Chicago’s transit system as an example of design that satisfies the minimum, but keeps the bar relative low. He provides many examples of inspiring design for transit stations and other elements of public transit that enrich the lives of those who use them.

Here in Waterloo Region, the transit debate is heating up once again, with opinions polarized about whether to build urban transit in the form of a light rail system, or extend the current bus system in an effort to modernize transit.

Whatever we decide to build, it would be nice if we committed to quality, inspiring design as the minimum.