Most executives have business, management, or accounting degrees. What they don't have are design degrees. It isn't often that a designer, even a top executive in design, is chosen to run a company. After going bankrupt, General Motors felt some drastic changes needed to be made.
Bob Lutz said that General Motors will be design-driven going forward. I guess he wasn't kidding. With the cars number one selling point being the look, this past summer, the vice president of G.M. North America Design, Bryan Nesbitt was named the General Manager of GM's best brand, Cadillac. Not only is Nesbitt a designer without a business degree but now one of the youngest managers of any car company.
Nesbitt is an award-winning automobile designer known mostly for his 1999 Chrysler PT Cruiser and his most recent European Opel Insignia (seen above).
Most designers, even those with degrees, are still often times considered to be button(pencil) pushers and not much more. Business is often run by the business, sales, or marketing team with little focus or appreciation for the innovation that goes into design. Design and consumer experience, however, has never been more important to both the consumer and the companies that make the products. For most companies a designer to executive scenario is still very unlikely but what does the 22% increase in sales from a year ago and new models mean for Cadillac? Is it just a recovery of the economy or is Cadillac on to something?
Today, a designer means more than just knowing how to draw on a computer, it means business knowledge, user research, marketing approach mixed with a little creativity. As a designer, I think quality products with great design increases sales but what does a designer to manager mean? What does this mean for other companies that desire to be more "design-driven" and what does it mean for future designers?
Bryan Nesbitt, showing off the new Cadillac CTS Coupe: