Keywords: performance, evaluation, engineering, design, industrial design, prospective, retrospective
Evaluating design performance
The role of design as a means of differentiating products and services is increasing as it becomes difficult to sustain competitive advantage through technology alone. Yet until recently, there has been virtually no quantitative information available relating to the contribution of design to business performance, and there are only a few studies on performance measurement of design. This paper, which is based on a review of the relevant literature, two case studies and extensive discussions with design managers and consultants, highlights the need for a clear understanding of the pervasiveness of the design activity that is being evaluated and an appreciation of the many disparate roles that it plays from the idea generation stage through to development, packaging, market positioning and promotion. The span of design over a product's life cycle, encompassing form (appearance), function (performance) and fit (ergonomics), is just one reason why the design function may be located in R&D, manufacturing or marketing; this diffusion of the design activity increases the difficulty of evaluation. The research identified several factors that influence the balance between quantitative and qualitative measures of design performance. The two projects examined in this study revealed a strong top management preference for ex-ante evaluation, and an ex-post emphasis on metrics for the performance of the project and the cross-functional team responsible, rather than on single disciplines within the team. The study also suggests that the complexity and dynamics of the competitive environment in many industries requires new conceptual models and a new, less linear, way of thinking about performance measurement, in particular.