Grasping the ungraspable

Date of publication: May 9, 2004


Supporting local businesses to become highly competitive is a major issue for many governments. Within this context the Flemish Minister of Economy ordered a study to examine the effects of product development and design implementation on business performance. Results show that although design has found its way to a number of Flemish manufacturing companies through redefining production processes and technological innovations, Flemish managers rather consider design as primarily about product appearance. Secondly, analysis of the effects of design implementation on profitability, solvency and liquidity shows that attention to design is economically profitable when the economic situation is favourable. Thirdly, designed products are more attractive to the general public in many ways, but are also perceived as less practical. As a result of these study results, the Flemish Ministry of Economy decided to establish a 'Centre of Excellence for Product Innovation and Design'. In addition the paper also reports on how a concept such as 'design' was dealt with as an independent variable and how the Flemish government translated study results into a plan of action.

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