About Brainstorm Design


Great design has extraordinary power: to build businesses, to bring harmony to communities and to enrich our lives. In its broadest sense, design may be defined as the rigorous application of human intellect and creativity in the search for beautiful, efficient and sustainable solutions. Indeed, our capacity to engage in design in all its permutations – to imagine, to plan, to build, to forge, to shape – is a fundamental part of what makes us human. Brainstorm Design is a new conference dedicated to proposition that in the 21st century, large organizations, if they are to innovate and grow, must embrace design as an essential component of corporate strategy.

For businesses, design matters now more than ever. The two great forces of the modern age—globalization and digitization—are sweeping away old barriers to entry and combining to make design a decisive source of competitive advantage for Fortune Global 500 firms. Large firms can no longer rely on familiar bulwarks—greater manufacturing capacity, a superior supply chain, established distribution networks—to defend their market position from disruptive challengers. The rise of China and other emerging economies, combined with “Fourth Industrial Revolution” technologies like Big Data, the Internet of Things, the platform economy, artificial intelligence and automation, are flattening and commoditizing traditional “back end” defenses. Increasingly business battles are waged at the front end, where firms must demonstrate their worth to customers every day. In the all-important touch points where companies and their products connect with consumers, designers—specifically trained to understand and empathize with customers and fashion products to delight them—are crucial specialists.

Leading companies including Apple, GE, Google, IBM and McKinsey have achieved success by expanding design capabilities and applying the methods of designers not only to their products and but also to their organizations’ structure and culture. Some have elevated the role of the chief design or chief creative officer to reporting directly to the CEO. A growing number of top business and design schools have introduced interdisciplinary programs to help MBAs think more like designers and vice versa.

And yet our experience suggests that, for the most part, business executives and designers still speak different languages. At many Fortune Global 500 firms the principles of design thinking aren’t well understood. Too often designers view large firms with suspicion and chafe at executives’ constant carping about measurable results and ROI. The global conference scene does little to bridge this cultural divide. There are innumerable opportunities for designers to talk to other designers, and still more for business executives to talk to other business executives, but few events that bring the two tribes together.

Brainstorm Design seeks to fill this void by exploring the nexus of business and design in the creative, timely and far-reaching manner the subject deserves. Hosted in Singapore, with support from Singapore’s Economic Development Board, Brainstorm Design is led by a unique partnership of editors from Wallpaper*, Fortune and TIME. Together editors from these three iconic publications will combine insights, experiences and contacts to create an event in Brainstorm’s signature style, with a fast-paced program and a variety of engaging formats.

Brainstorm Design’s agenda and format is shaped with input from a global advisory panel made up of worldclass designers and business executives including Tom Dixon, Thomas Heatherwick, Mauro Porcini, Ole Scheeren and Patricia Urquiola. Speakers were drawn from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, including industrial and product design, architecture, urban planning, landscaping, graphic design, branding, fashion, software and nanotechnology. Participants heard from stars from Wallpaper’s Design Power 200 list, businesses leaders from the Fortune 500, and luminaries from the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

Discussion focused on the nuts and bolts of products and projects, and also explore ideas and processes. We sought to understand the philosophies and working methods great designers bring their craft and examined how successful designers collaborate with global firms.

Topics for discussion in 2018 were organized under four main “by design” headings:

How can design give businesses – or even entire nations – a competitive edge? What’s the secret to designing great products? What is “design thinking” and what business leaders do to embrace it? How can good design transform large organizations? How can design be used to reduce costs and simplify operations? What design principles and techniques can help human workers deal with advances in workplace automation and artificial intelligence?

SMARTER x design
How is the role of design changing in an ever more connected world? What new opportunities for design are offered by Big Data and the Internet of Things? How can design be used to create not only smart devices but also smart cities? How can design harness the power of the Internet and mobile devices to transform education and training? How are these new technologies making it easier for designers to collaborate? To understand their customers? To innovate?

GREENER x design
How can design help to build and make things without damage to the environment? How design can be used to reduce energy consumption, eliminate carbon emissions, minimize waste and encourage the use of recyclable materials? How can we make greater use of natural and organic design technologies?

RICHER x design
How can design help us to live healthier, more meaningful lives? Can design make us more beautiful? What changes lie in store in luxury fashion? How can design help us to recognize talent and promote diversity in the workplace?

For each track, we emphasized practical business applications. We’ll celebrate design for its own sake, but our primary aim is to focus on how melding the creativity talent of great designers with the capital, human resources and execution capabilities of large firms can to achieve distinctive, high-impact business results.